Is it right for SDA to celebrate Christmas?
As a church, we don’t have an official statement or position about celebrating Christmas, leaving it instead to the individual.
We must be careful not to allow the subject of Christmas to become a divisive issue among us, criticizing or alienating those who may see it differently than we ourselves do.
Ellen White has provided wise counsel on this topic that remains relevant for us today:
“We are now nearing the close of another year, and shall we not make these festal days opportunities in which to bring to God our offerings? I cannot say sacrifices, for we shall only be rendering to God that which is His already, and which He has only entrusted to us till He shall call for it. God would be well pleased if on Christmas each church would have a Christmas tree on which shall be hung offerings, great and small, for these houses of worship.
“Letters of inquiry have come to us asking, Shall we have a Christmas tree? Will it not be like the world? We answer, You can make it like the world if you have a disposition to do so, or you can make it as unlike the world as possible. There is no particular sin in selecting a fragrant evergreen and placing it in our churches, but the sin lies in the motive which prompts to action and the use which is made of the gifts placed upon the tree.
“The tree may be as tall and its branches as wide as shall best suit the occasion; but let its boughs be laden with the golden and silver fruit of your beneficence, and present this to Him as your Christmas gift. Let your donations be sanctified by prayer.
“Christmas and New Year celebrations can and should be held in behalf of those who are helpless. God is glorified when we give to help those who have large families to support.
“Will you not arise, my Christian brethren and sisters, and gird yourselves for duty in the fear of God, so arranging this matter that it shall not be dry and uninteresting, but full of innocent enjoyment that shall bear the signet of Heaven? I know the poorer class will respond to these suggestions. The most wealthy should also show an interest and bestow their gifts and offerings proportionate to the means with which God has entrusted them.
“Let there be recorded in the heavenly books such a Christmas as has never yet been seen because of the donations which shall be given for the sustaining of the work of God and the upbuilding of His kingdom.” — Review and Herald, December 11, 1879, par. 15.
While we don’t know exactly when Jesus was born, the important thing is that we know prophecy was fulfilled precisely as predicted — Jesus was born in Bethlehem to a virgin. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. He lived a sinless life, was wounded for our transgressions, died and rose again and is now in heaven ministering for us in the heavenly sanctuary. Soon, He will come again, not as a helpless baby but as conquering King to take us home.
Let’s use this time of year to bring our best gifts to the King of kings in order to reach our friends, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances, and even strangers, with the wonderful message proclaimed so beautifully in Isaiah 9:6: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
Before I comment on the question, let me clarify that Adventists are not, nor should we be, against Christmas. Why would we be against a period of time when Christians remember the birth of our Savior? However, since this festivity is not ordained by Scripture, we don’t consider it to be binding on believers. We recognize only one holy day, the Sabbath; and we keep it holy in obedience to our Creator and Redeemer.
Christmas is a pagan holiday with a Christian name. In fact, the Pagan culture has had a great influence on our civilization, such as the names of the days of the week. However, since Sunday was named for the sun god and Monday for the moon god, we do not hesitate to live our normal lives on those days and call them by their given pagan names. We do not worship on Sunday, but we do not hesitate to pray on that day or to do missionary work.
Consider when Jesus was here on earth when one of the Pharisees asked Him if they should pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus told them, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:21. Under the guidance of our heavenly Father we have to live in this world and cope with who and what we live with.
Regarding Christmas, we have already established the fact that it is of pagan origin, but we cannot ignore the fact that it is here. It is the time of the year when people take vacations, especially schools. It is the time of the year when people, businesses, and social groups are giving greetings and presents to one another. Many do this just for prestige, some for love, some for other advantages, but gifts and greetings are prevalent. Because the world and churches are doing these things at Christmas time, would it be wrong for a Seventh-day Adventist to give a gift to someone or to take a vacation at Christmas time or to wish someone happy holidays?
I do believe it is wrong to ascribe the joy of Christmas to the birth of Christ, for that is false theology, and children should be taught the truth at all times. Never, never lie to a child. Tell them the way it is—there is no Santa Clause. They can’t help but see and hear about it, but they must know the truth. However, it is not wrong to give children gifts because you love them, or even to give gifts for appreciation to your friends and loved ones. Just don’t forget that the best Friend we have is Jesus, and He deserves the best gift.
Now let’s learn what the Lord has revealed to us. “While urging upon all the duty of first bringing their offerings to God, I would not wholly condemn the practice of making Christmas and New Year’s gifts to our friends. It is right to bestow upon one another tokens of love and remembrance if we do not in this forget God, our best Friend. We should make our gifts such as will prove a real benefit to the receiver. I would recommend such books as will be an aid in understanding the Word of God, or that will increase our love for its precepts.” The Review and Herald, December 26, 1882.
what should we do at Christmas?
The first coming of Christ was joy to the world—so in remembering it, we should be joyful. It was an unmerited gift to humanity—so perhaps it is not too far off to give unmerited gifts to our fellow humans. It also was a gift to those who were poor and in desperate need—so it would be in the spirit of Christmas to help the poor (It is always important to help the poor though. Especially not on Christmas. Everyone helps the poor on Christmas.) It was an event proclaimed by shepherds and wise men—so maybe it is a good opportunity to proclaim it still today.
How will you celebrate Christmas at your church?