It was my first Christmas season in Florida. Shortly after Thanksgiving, a father showed up to our Bible study, very discouraged. It was his daughter’s 11th birthday, and due to finances at home he did not have a single dime to buy her a gift. Several days later, I was surprised when his daughter called me at the church, asking to put an ad in the church bulletin. She was organizing a group at her school to collect Christmas gifts for kids who had no gifts. In talking to her, it was clear that she was excited about this, and she definitely was not thinking about any gift for herself. That really touched my heart. This child understood more than the meaning of Christmas. She understood the meaning of life! She was so busy thinking of others that she had no time to feel sorry for herself.
I appreciate the Christmas season as it helps me to see the good that is in people all year long. I’m sorry not everyone sees it that way.
Imagine this scenario. It’s a beautiful sunny Florida day. You call me and say, “William, let’s go to the beach and enjoy a beautiful sunset.” I respond, “No way! Don’t you know that some pagans worship the sun, therefore we should have nothing to do with it!” Would that be balanced thinking? Likewise just because some pagans a few hundred years ago celebrated the winter solstice around this time of year should not keep us from worshiping the Son on that day!
I have also heard that Christmas is a “Catholic” holiday. Does that make it wrong to remember Christ’s birth at this time? Not everything Catholics do or have done is bad. Catholics operate good hospitals all over the world where people of all faiths and beliefs receive compassionate care. If we are not Catholic does that mean that we should not have good hospitals just because they do? There are many good Catholics who pray every day. Should we refrain from prayer because Catholics pray? Of course not. So why should we refrain from celebrating a holiday that makes the whole world think of Jesus? Remember, like Christmas, Martin Luther’s origins were Catholic too, so as good Protestants should we reject him too?
We need to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) While Sunday observance opposes the Sabbath observance, celebrating Christmas does not oppose anything biblical.
Let us remember, that while Paul clearly taught that the feast days were no longer binding, but were a shadow of things to come (See Colossians 2:14-17), he still went up to Pentecost, as it was an opportunity for him to share Jesus with everyone. (See Acts 20:16 and 1 Corinthians 16:8) With the same missionary Spirit that Paul had, should we not also take advantage of celebrations that enable us to share Jesus, including Christmas and Easter? Remember too, that Jesus met people where they were. He showed an interest in their secular affairs, so that He could reach their hearts.
The Spirit of Prophecy that rested upon Paul stays consistent as it rested upon Ellen White, who tells us Christmas serves a good purpose.
As the twenty-fifth of December is observed to commemorate the birth of Christ, as the children have been instructed by precept and example that this was indeed a day of gladness and rejoicing, you will find it a difficult matter to pass over this period without giving it some attention. It can be made to serve a very good purpose. –Ellen White, Adventist Home, Page 478
I believe that if Christmas was a day that we should ignore, that God’s prophet would have instructed us so very clearly. She does not instruct us to ignore this day. God gave her no such message.
Nor does the Spirit of Prophecy tell us that a Christmas tree within itself is pagan.
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. –Ellen White, Review and Herald, December 11, 1879 par. 15
Yes, we all know Jesus was not born on December 25. We do not need to celebrate it as Christ’s actual birthday. We celebrate the fact that Jesus became a man and died for our sins. Maybe Christmas was inspired by pagan motives. Joseph’s brothers had “pagan” motives when they sold him to the Ishmaelites. No matter. God used it for good and made Joseph a savior of his times. So today, we have an excellent opportunity to allow God to use a day set up by sinful mankind to turn peoples’ minds and hearts to the Savior. The original motives good or bad do not matter at this point. God can use it for good. This does not contradict Bible doctrine.
My mind goes back to another Christmas I celebrated with my church in Fort Worth Texas. Christmas fell on a Sabbath that year. My church decided to spend Sabbath feeding lunch to the homeless downtown. We had several kids of all ages with us. They were delighted to serve. Now, most of these families waited till sundown to celebrate Christmas and open their gifts, so even though it was late in the afternoon, these children had not opened their gifts yet. After we served and cleaned up I figured, and the parents figured too, that the kids would now be in a hurry to rush home in time for sundown to open their gifts. That is not what happened. These kids begged us to let them stay and serve the evening meal as well, even though another group was coming in to do that. The kids were so excited that they got to stay and serve total strangers instead of rushing home to open their gifts.
Friends the Christmas spirit these kids manifested, and the Christmas spirit of my Bible study student’s daughter was not a pagan spirit. It was a spirit of self-sacrificing love, which is what true Christianity is all about!
When Joseph found out Mary was with child, he thought it was rather obvious she had an affair. Wouldn’t it seem obvious to you too? Joseph was wise to hold his peace and not say anything publicly against Mary. Good thing he didn’t say anything, because Joseph found out that what had happened was actually done by the Holy Spirit.
I am saddened when people judge the motives of people celebrating the Christmas Spirit, by calling them pagan, when in fact they are actually moved by the Holy Spirit celebrating the meaning of life which is Christ Himself.
*** Editor’s Notice ***
We welcome your comments in the spirit of the original post by William. Please feel free to share stories of a memorable Christmas that honored God in a time of fellowship or service.
Another good article on the subject is “Compassion and the Christmas Season,” by José Cortés, Jr., the director of Adventist Youth Ministries in the Atlantic Union.
We also recommend the Christmas message from the president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Ted Wilson in the Adventist Review: “A Christmas Greeting from Ted Wilson,” which includes some beautiful music.
Please note that we will not be publishing any more comments regarding Christmas being “pagan” or “Catholic” or any other reminder that Christmas is not a holy day. (Readers on this site already know that.) In most parts of the world December 25 is a public holiday, and we can choose whether to spend the time in a pagan manner or in a Christian manner. It’s all up to us. That’s why we ask for comments on how you have spent the season in a way that honored Christ in the past or even comments on what you plan to do this Christmas season.
What people did on any specific day hundreds or thousands of years ago does not have to affect us today. Even what others do today does not have to be a pattern for us. God gave us the power of choice so we might choose wisely.
Please consider that there is no way to eliminate everything from our lives that Satan has used for evil while we live on this earth. (The first thing Satan used with humankind is a fruit, with greater evil consequences for this world than anything he has used since.) Instead, we can rejoice that this is the day that the Lord has made and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24) So let us rejoice!