In 2 Samuel 6 we find the story of Uzzah.
"Again David gathered all the choice men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the Name, the LORD of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim.
"So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark.
"Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the LORD on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals.
"And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God" (2 Samuel 6:1-7).
Why would God take the life of Uzzah when he was trying to do good? Why would this tragedy happen when all the house of Israel was rejoicing over returning the ark of the covenant?
To the people of Israel this ark was a representation of God. God had made it holy, and all things holy must be treated with proper respect in the manner expected by God.
They had chosen to carry it in the same manner as the Philistines, who did not know God. A lesson was needed on how to show proper respect, awe and honor to the holy things of God. They had the commandments of how the ark of God had been used mightily to bring their ancestors through the wilderness, and then to part the waters of the Jordan when they entered the promised land. It was a symbol to them of the power and majesty of the One who watched over them and called them His special chosen people.
How did God say to carry the Ark?
"You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them in its four corners; two rings shall be on one side, and two rings on the other side. And you shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them. The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you" (Exodus 25:12-16).
David was learning a lesson, that he must follow every word of God and not lean to his own understanding, as Saul before him had done.
What does this lesson in the Old Testament have to do with the celebration of Christmas?
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16).
In Leviticus 23 we are shown the days that God said for His people to honor and use in worship of Him. They are called the feasts of the Lord. Each of these holy times has a special meaning to the people of God and also to all who have ever lived, even if they have not been aware of it. They are the feasts of the Lord and not the feasts of the Jews. Careful study will show that the New Testament Church kept these days, both Jews and Gentiles.
Where in the Bible do you find God saying to celebrate the birth of our Savior? Where does it say an upright tree decked with finery is a way to honor Him? Where are we told to exchange gifts and wait for a magical man in a red suit at midnight to bring things to children who have been good all year? Where are we told to deck our house inside and out with evergreens and tinsel? Search from beginning to end in the Bible and you will not find it.
You can find ample records in other writings of similar celebrations that were done in honor of gods made in the minds of men. Even as recent as the beginnings of the United States you can find that many coming to the new world for religious freedom considered these celebrations an addition to true worship and chose to not do them.
"For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book" (Revelation 22:18-19).
Those who call themselves Christian today, as God's special chosen people, are the witnesses of the power and majesty of the One who watches over us.
Just as a spouse does not want their mate looking at someone else, God does not want His espoused bride to be looking at the way false gods have been worshipped and think they can worship Him in the same way. When Israel, the church in the wilderness, went after foreign gods, God called it committing adultery against Him.
"Then the Lord said to me, 'Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans'" (Hosea 3:1).
We call ourselves by the name of Christ and need to be careful to follow instructions on how to properly show awe and respect to the One we call our Savior and Lord.
“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.
“Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it" (Deuteronomy 12:29-32).
Can we decide, no matter how good our intentions, how to worship God? Uzzah had good intentions, and his example that comes down to us today is that good intentions are not enough.
We have clear instructions from God’s own Holy Book how He wants to be worshipped and on which days. We are no different from the people recorded in the Bible who thought they could worship God in the same manner as those around them, and who convinced themselves they were still honoring Him.
We cannot bring people to the true God by keeping the same traditions and worship from the past to false gods. We have to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
The only way to find absolute truth is in the pages of the book that has been made available to us through great sacrifice and miraculous intervention. Do not take this gift to us from God lightly. We are to study and follow the instructions found in the pages of the Bible, and those who add to or take away from it will not be found in the Book of Life.