The Observance of Christmas

Is it too early to think about what we shall do with Christmas next year? Perhaps not, because it takes time to change ingrained thinking, and some of us may need a year to change our pattern of thought.

I. What Is Christmas?1

Boys gazing at starry Christmas sky

mage © Daniel Tilstra from

Christmas is coming,” is the note that is sounded throughout our world from East to West and from North to South. With youth, those of mature age, and even the aged, it is a period of general rejoicing, of great gladness. But what is Christmas, that it should demand so much attention? This day has been made much of for centuries. It is accepted by the unbelieving world, and by the Christian world generally, as the day on which Christ was born. When the world at large celebrate the day, they show no honor to Christ. They refuse to acknowledge him as their Saviour, to honor him by willing obedience to his service. They show preference to the day, but none to the one for whom the day is celebrated, Jesus Christ.

II. Christ’s Birthday Not Known

The twenty-fifth of December is supposed to be the day of the birth of Jesus Christ, and its observance has become customary and popular. But yet there is no certainty that we are keeping the veritable day of our Saviour’s birth. History gives us no certain assurance of this. The Bible does not give us the precise time. Had the Lord deemed this knowledge essential to our salvation, he would have spoken through his prophets and apostles, that we might know all about the matter. . . .

There is no divine sanctity resting upon the twenty- fifth of December; and it is not pleasing to God that anything that concerns the salvation of man through the infinite sacrifice made for them, should be so sadly perverted from its professed design. Christ should be the supreme object; but as Christmas has been observed, the glory is turned from him to mortal man, whose sinful, defective character made it necessary for him to come to our world.

III. The Wonderful Theme of the Incarnation

Jesus, the Majesty of heaven, the royal King of heaven, laid aside his royalty, left his throne of glory, his high command, and came into our world to bring to fallen men, weakened in moral power, and corrupted by sin, aid divine. He clothed his divinity with humanity, that he might reach to the very depths of human woe and misery, to lift up fallen man. By taking upon himself man’s nature, he raised humanity in the scale of moral value with God. These great themes are almost too high, too deep, too infinite, for the comprehension of finite minds.

IV. The Gift Season for God’s Cause

Parents should keep these things before their children, and instruct them, line upon line, precept upon precept, in their obligation to God,—not their obligation to each other, to honor and glorify one another by gifts and offerings. But they should be taught that Jesus is the world’s Redeemer, the object of thought, of painstaking effort; that his work is the grand theme which should engage their attention; that they should bring to him their gifts and offerings. Thus did the wise men and the shepherds.

V. A Day of Gladness and Rejoicing

As the twenty-fifth day 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. The youth should be treated very carefully. They should not be left on Christmas to find their own amusement in vanity and pleasure-seeking, in amusements which will be detrimental to their spirituality. Parents can control this matter by turning the minds and the offerings of their children to God and his cause and the salvation of souls.

VI. Not to Be Ignored With Children

The desire for amusement, instead of being quenched and arbitrarily ruled down, should be controlled and directed by painstaking effort upon the part of the parents. Their desire to make gifts may be turned into pure and holy channels, and made to result in good to our fellow-men by supplying the treasury in the great, grand work for which Christ came into our world. Self-denial and self-sacrifice marked his course of action. Let it mark ours who profess to love Jesus; because in him is centered our hope of eternal life.

Youth cannot be made as sedate and grave as old age, the child as sober as the sire. While sinful amusements are condemned, as they should be, let parents, teachers, and guardians of youth provide in their stead innocent pleasures, which shall not taint or corrupt the morals. Do not bind down the young to rigid rules and restraints that will lead them to feel themselves oppressed and to break over and rush into paths of folly and destruction. With a firm, kindly, considerate hand, hold the lines of government, guiding and controlling their minds and purposes, yet so gently, so wisely, so lovingly, that they still will know that you have their best good in view. . . .

VII. The Emblem of the Evergreen

On Christmas, so soon to come, let not the parents take the position that an evergreen placed in the church for the amusement of the Sabbath-school scholars is a sin; for it may be made a great blessing. Keep before their minds benevolent objects. In no case should mere amusement be the object of these gatherings. While there may be some who will turn these occasions into seasons of careless levity, and whose minds will not receive the divine impress, to other minds and characters these seasons will be highly beneficial. I am fully satisfied that innocent substitutes can be devised for many gatherings that demoralize.

Christmas is coming. May you all have wisdom to make it a precious season. Let the older church members unite, heart and soul, with their children in this innocent amusement and recreation, in devising ways and means to show true respect to Jesus by bringing to him gifts and offerings. Let everyone remember the claims of God. His cause cannot go forward without your aid. Let the gifts you have usually bestowed upon one another be placed in the Lord’s treasury. . . . In every church let your smaller offerings be placed upon your Christmas tree. Let the precious emblem, “evergreen,” suggest the holy work of God and his beneficence to us; and the loving heart-work will be to save other souls who are in darkness. Let your works be in accordance with your faith. . . .

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 HeraId, Dec. 9, 1884.

VIII. Interchange of Holiday Gifts

The holiday season is fast approaching with its interchange of gifts, and old and young are intently studying what they can bestow upon their friends as a token of affectionate remembrance. It is pleasant to receive a gift, however small, from those we love. It is an assurance that we are not forgotten, and seems to bind us to them a little closer.

IX. Making Melody and Praising God

Brethren and sisters, while you are devising gifts for one another, I would remind you of our heavenly Friend, lest you should be unmindful of his claims. Will he not be pleased if we show that we have not forgotten him? Jesus, the Prince of Life, gave all to bring salvation within our reach. . . .

It is through Christ that we receive every blessing. . . . Shall not our heavenly Benefactor share in the tokens of our gratitude and love? Come, brethren and sisters, come with your children, even the babes in your arms, and bring your offerings to God according to your ability. Make melody to him in your hearts, and let his praise be upon your lips. . . .

X. Not Forgetting God

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 Years 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.- Review and Herald, Dec. 26, 1882.

Editor’s Note: We apologize for not publishing this earlier, but we expect to republish this in early November of next year – just as a reminder.

  1. This article can be found in this format at
Posted in Feature, Holy Days and Holidays Tagged , , , permalink

About Ellen G White

Ellen G. White (1827-1915) has undoubtedly been the most influential Seventh-day Adventist in the history of the church. She and her husband, James, provided strong leadership as the church was founded and organized in the mid-1800's. Her personal presence and her writings did much to shape and guide Adventism during her seven decades of prophetic ministry. Since her death in 1915 her counsel and insights have continued to direct the Adventist Church. Today millions look to her writings for guidance and motivation. You can read her writings for free at


The Observance of Christmas — 32 Comments

  1. Ellen White was a fallible woman. It irks me that Adventists follow her counsels rather than do what God says in His Word that they claim to have the most light about. Christmas was instituted by the Roman Catholic Church aka the beast power. Why in the world would God's so called remnant have anything to do with their precepts?

    • I have yet to find a place in the Bible where it tells us not to tell the story of the birth of Jesus at certain times of the year. And I find nothing against doing good and sharing in December either. Read what Ellen White is saying; she is not promoting Roman Catholic doctrine or festivals but rather encouraging us to make sense out of a time of the year that is often filled with nonsense.

      There is a ministry in turning the eyes of the unbelievers to Jesus and what better time than when they are somewhat predisposed to listening and looking. There are many ways to share the story of Jesus birth without resorting to Catholic tradition. What better way is there than simply telling the story and sharing the hope that we love and experience, rather than talking condemnation.

    • I feel compelled to address a factual error in Monica's comment. She writes that

      Christmas was instituted by the Roman Catholic Church aka the beast power.

      This is simply not true, since the birth of Christ was celebrated on December 25 hundreds of years before there was a Roman Catholic Church, according to Adventist prophetic reckoning. A fairly careful examination of the topic can be found at "The Son and the Sun: How Christmas became a Christian Feast."

      I would also be interested in an explanation of how Ellen White's counsel contradicts God's Word.

      The way I see it, her counsel upholds the Christ commission of sharing the Good News with all the world by focusing on Christ during the Christmas season - in our homes, in our churches, and in our interaction with others.

    • Joy To The World The Lord Has Come. Let's Tell Somebody No Matter What Day It Is. Focus On That And Not The Day.

      • The God who speaks and who created human language enables chosen people to communicate in human words the inspired thoughts in a trustworthy and reliable manner.

        "God has been pleased to communicate His truth to the world by human agencies, and He Himself, by His Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them to do His work. He guided the mind in the selection of what to speak and what to write. The treasure was entrusted to earthen vessels, yet it is, nonetheless, from Heaven." - Selected Messages, book 1, p. 26.

    • Christmas celebration is only pagan if self is exalted above the Lord. If we remain obedient to Him in all that we do in celebrating, we magnify the Lord before others and are merely following His perfect example. Jesus used every occasion to impart a saving knowledge of God to those lost in sin. What better time than Christmas in many cases?

      • Brother robert W. Don't you think your first statement equate to a thought that even sunday observance as a holy day may in the light of 'righteousness' be of evangelical advantage . My take is that when history informs us that chrismas has a pagun origin and now dressing a proper colour painted by the pontiff of rome- shall we refrain.I believe satan is real and his desire is to be worship wheather we be ignorant of his well dressed devices or not. Remeber satan has no problems with mixing truth and error in whatever ratio.II cor VI Vs V

        • Robert will doubtless answer for himself. But I would like to address a couple misconceptions:
          1) No one is suggesting that we "observe" Christmas as a "holy day." So the comparison to Sunday is inappropriate.
          2) History does not inform us of the pagan origins of Christmas. The testimony of history is a bit controversial, but December 25 was discussed in the Christian church as a possible date of Christ's birth in the third century (late in the 200's), and Christians had begun celebrating Christ's birth on December 25 in the fourth century, before there was any pagan celebration on that day. The late-December pagan feast ended on December 23, so there was no overlap.

          But then, pagan backgrounds should not concern us one whit. After all every day of the week is named after a pagan deity, but that does not make any day any less the day that God has made. Though Satan claims ownership of this world, his claim is false. Christ created this world, and when it defaulted to Satan through his deception, Christ bought it back with His own blood. Away with the false emphasis on pagan origins!! Let us focus on the glorious gospel that compelled angels to put on this world's greatest choral performance in front of a few shepherds because they were the only ones prepared to appreciate it.
          For more on the relevance of "pagan origins," see "Glory In the Lowest" by Nathan Brown.

  2. I believe Strongly that Ellen G. White was a fallible woman but so was Moses, Joshua, David, Samuel, Paul, Peter, John and all the writers of the Bible. God spoke to them and they wrote to us. I believe God is still speaking to His people today the problem is some of us are not listening.

    • God used fallible human beings to communicate with fallible humanity.

      To suggest that we can ignore messaages God spoke through fallible prophets implies that we consider ourselves less fallible than the prophets. Is that not the height of arrogance aka pride? And the pride is one of the things the Lord "hates." (Prov 8:13)

  3. On Friday night the young people in the church went carrolling to some of the homes of the elderly. On Sabbath afternoon, my son with his children took gifts to those children who did not have a father in their lives. He tries to put there focus not only on what they receive, but what they can do for others. At the end of their visits the children are happier and more relaxed. Instead of labeling it as "beast worship" you can do some good.

  4. All of God's prophets were fallible with the exception of Jesus,and I have yet to see a contradiction in sister White's teaching with the bible. It makes sense to me if Jesus is the reason for the season,we should give the gifts to Him. Anytime the world wants to focus on the the bible we should be there to help guide them into all truth. Seventh day Adventist believe Sister White was a prophetess,ordained by God to lead His remnant church. If we don't believe that why would I be a 7th day Adventist?

    • Jesus was fallible too. He completly put on adams nature after the fall. Otherwise your statement would me he didn't die at the cross -he just fainted. Please take note of this my sister.

      • Yes, but I think we need to look at the world "fallible" so people can understand this. Fallible means being capable of making mistakes, or, in the spiritual sense, being capable of sinning.

        Was Christ capable of sinning? If He was not, then His overcoming sin was only make-believe. But the incarnation tells us that He took on real human flesh, with all its liabilities. He became the "second Adam," and, as the first Adam was capable of sinning, so was Christ.

        So saying that someone is a "fallible human being" is truth, indeed, but Christ speaks through fallible human beings, just like He, the "Mighty God" veiled Himself in fallible human flesh. (See Isa 9:6)

        The Good News is that Christ became incarnate in human flesh and overcame sin in the same human flesh so that He might give His victory to us and take us with Him to heaven. In other words, though Christ was capable of falling (He was fallible), He did NOT fall!!

  5. Thank you for this post.

    When I first became a SDA,my son was not even 2 years old. Having not associated with God at all for about nine years, I read what I could in the Bible about Jesus's birth, and I read much of the ideas in this post and I tried to follow what ideas I could when I raised my son.

    Now I have grandchildren, ages 6 and 7.5 and they are being brought up in the middle of Manhattan, NY, with no God. This is a common occurrence all over America.

    Except for this year, because of rain, every Christmas we have had a tree​ and I have a small nativity set that we set up. Lily mentioned the nativity set, even though we didn't put up a tree, and she is usually the one to set up the manger and enjoys remembering about the birth of baby Jesus.

    It is possible for children to hear only secular Christmas music as my grandchildren have. They do not know any Christmas carols that are about Jesus.

    When I was a child, we were taught about Jesus' birth and celebrated it at Christmas, even though it was not exactly the day of his birth. We sang Christmas carols about Jesus' birth and some other Christmas songs. I am glad I have had some ideas about the birth of Jesus and about God.

    I see so many people who know nothing or next to nothing about God and Jesus. We have such a big mission field in America.

    So the little bit of Jesus I can share, I do. Christmastime gives us the opportunity of sharing Jesus's birth with those who may not learn of Him.

    How can we pretend to love when we are full of hate about Christmas? This hatred expressed by Christians seems to grow each year. It seems like choosing the negative ideas about Christmas are a diversion from the Gospel we need to share, and the love we need to show to others.

  6. I think that in our secular world it's not the problem to celebrate Christmas on a former pagans' festivity day. Nobody knows about that any more. However,what happens is that the connection to Christ's birth is not in the focus of many any more. It's sometimes more the festivity season to increase the profit and the sales figures of the big companies. It was difficult for me to explain my children that it' not all about getting many big toys, computers or X-box games they see on TV when they were between 6 and 14 years. I always tried to show them that there are other things that are precious at that time such as singing Christmas carols, putting on a nativity scene, donating money to the poor, and I told them about the gift God gave to us with his son. Now they graduated from highschool and know. I have more time now and I feel like telling or showing other people that Christmas is not about buying or receiving things....

    • Yes, Barbara, I think that should be our focus - to demonstrate that the inexpressible gift of God's Son to the human race is not only reason for rejoicing but reason to give back by giving to those who are not as blessed as we are.

  7. It's truly sad to see such a growing bitter resentment within the church of sharing the message of Jesus birth at Christmas time - one of the few times if ever people's hearts outside the church are softened so as not to be offended.

    "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works & glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

    If we not only withhold that light of truth but pour contempt and even scorn on the mere mention of the beautiful first advent message, how much greater contempt and disdain will be felt by those whose hearts should otherwise be awakened?

    There is a dilemma should we wish to turn increasingly secularized humanity towards Christ during these times (traditionally Christmas & Easter), explain even gently the pagan nature of their origins, if we are unable to bring ourselves to reference relevant scripture. Worse still, if all people were to hear from us were messages of hatred (which is basically what we are seeing), what does that say to them of our real love/relationship to Christ who they associate (even though not personally) with these times.

    • Thanks for this, Robbie.

      I'm thinking that if we point people to pagan origins - whether gently or not - we miss a wonderful opportunity to focus on the unspeakable gift of God Himself in human flesh, which is the basis of the gospel.

      Not only that, but by referencing "pagan backgrounds" or whatever, we take any focus off Christ (which doubtless pleases Satan, his arch enemy) and put the focus on paganism. Surely we would not want to join Satan in diverting attention from Christ!

      • I agree 100% Inge. It's really only a discussion for a time when someone genuinely asks about the origins of the date etc.

  8. Sadly, the “War on Christmas” and “Christmas Under Siege” campaigns pushed by some conservative Christians says more about the church’s captivity to consumerism than its commitment to the love of Christ and their neighbors.

  9. It is a wonderful thing to praise God for His inexplicable, inconceivable priceless gift in Christ.

    At a time when the world is a little more open to to possibility of a Savior, is this not a valuable opportunity to allow the Spirit to reveal the true nature of Christ's mission and love through us?

  10. I really see nothing bad in observing and celebrating Christmas if it is for God's glory. After all this is the only day the whole world talks about nothing else but the birth of Jesus, the savior of the world! What is wrong with that? Believe me, there are many people who have come to know Jesus through listening and watching news about Him on Christmas.

  11. Jeremiah 10:1-4.
    Is there any similarity of this tree adorning practice of Israel to that of the Christmas tree. Kindly relate to me/us (the readers of this blog) the significance of the Christmas tree to Jesus' birth.

    • To understand what a biblical passage means, it is often necessary to read the full chapter as well as the chapter before and after. I suggest that for this passage. Then I suggest comparing this passage to a very similar one in Isaiah 40:18-22.

      At first glance, it might seem that Jere 10:3-4 could refer to Christmas trees, cut from the forest and decorated with gold and silver trimmings. But this was thousands of years before the first Christmas tree was set up, and a more careful look at the context makes clear that God is talking about making an idol from the trunk of a tree. Jeremiah mentions a craftsman shaping the wood, "the work of the hands of the workman" (Jer 10:3). Note also Jer 10:8:

      8 But they are altogether dull-hearted and foolish; a wooden idol is a worthless doctrine.

      Later in the chapter the contrast is drawn between the false gods that have not made the earth and the true God, the Creator (see Jer 10:9-11). Jer 10:14-15 speak of worthless idols that only demonstrate the foolishness of those who worship them.

      Then check out Isaiah 40:19-20 and Jer 44:14-17. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah warn of the futility and foolishness of making and worshiping idols. Thus there is no relationship to the modern Christmas tree - unless, of course, people bow down to them and worship them as gods. I have never observed that, have you?

      Please read again what Ellen White has to say on the subject of using evergreens in our churches and homes. I think you will find it very balanced and free from the extremism of those who denounce Christmas as "pagan." She suggests making Christ our focus, and if we focus on the incarnation of the Mighty God as a human baby, we will be focusing on the very foundation of the gospel which Christ commissioned us to preach to all the world.

    • Jeremiah 10 is not speaking of Christmas trees, or even setting up a tree as such. I don't believe there is anything in scripture that forbids bringing a little bit of nature into our homes (nice flower bouquets, or other plants, branches or trees)
      Jeremiah is speaking of the foolishness of worshipping an idol, made out of wood by a skilled craftsman, and worshipping this manmade thing, calling it their god, something that can't even walk, and falls over if not nailed down.

      Significance of a tree?
      Definitely not mandatory -- but not evil either.
      There is something about lights and greenery in the middle of winter that bespeak of hope and cheer. This is probably felt more in the northern countries where days are very short and cold and the color green has almost vanished from nature which has basically turned black and white for several months -- except for the coniferous trees.

      The first solo I ever sang was at a Christmas program when I was in grade one, and it was about the Christmas Tree -- it was in German,(a rough translation)
      O coniferous tree, o coniferous tree
      How faithful are your branches,
      Thy leaves are so unchanging;
      Not only green when summer's here,
      But also when 'tis cold and drear.
      O Coniferous Tree! O Coniferous Tree!
      Thy leaves are so unchanging!

      O Coniferous Tree! O Coniferous Tree!
      Your dress will teach an important lesson
      in hope and steadfastness
      Thou bidst us true and faithful be,
      And trust in God unchangingly.

      While we do not want to focus on paganism, we do want to focus on Christ.
      While I do lament how the world at this time is caught up in a Christless emphases, of revelry, commercialism and greed, I find it equally sad to see Adventists denouncing the whole concept of Christmas.

      Why would any Christian be offended when the story of Jesus is being focused upon? Yes, I have actually known people who refused to attend church all December, because there was so much of the Christmas story being presented in sermon, songs, etc. during that month. After all, they have heard that the virgin birth, mother and child, all have pagan counterparts. Have they thrown out the real with the counterfeit? The message such an attitude sends is that Adventism is a legalistic religion that doesn't welcome the Savior into our world or into our lives.
      Is that the message we want people to hear? I don't think so.

      Yes, we are to share that message in July and other months as well -- but if we rise up AGAINST it in December, and declare it all a bunch of paganism. that's what people will take note of -- and conclude that we do not honor Christ's incarnation.

      Does it matter exactly what date Christ was born? Isn't the important thing that He did come, taking upon Himself humanity so He could save us from sin, and give us life? Is it wrong to set aside a season to especially rejoice over this wonderful truth?

      Our Savior should be the center of our message! And Christmas should be a truly Christ focused time, -- yes, tell the Christmas story, the story of redemption, the story of Jesus, and what He wants to do in each person's life, and let it show in your life -- especially at a time when people are most receptive to hearing and responding to the redemption story.

  12. it is so wonderful to put our thoughts and beliefs together as to how we understand the bible and know where we are heading in the end.

    Mathew 7:21
    Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven but only he who dose the will of my Father who is in Heaven.

    God Himself is the Bible and in the Bible we study His Word. John 1:1 says: In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God and the Word was God.

    God is faithful, respectful, understanding and fair God. Thou He is our Creator but has given us the Power of Choose. We study the Scripture repeatedly, thoughtfully and do the right thing coz we all (whole world) want to go to heaven and live ETENALLY with God.

    God bless us all.....

  13. I wonder what God in heaven feels when he witnesses such confusion among those that profess His name. How satan feels too when he sees us majoring on minors and leaving out that which is important for our salvation. God have mercy on us.
    If Jesus were here on earth what would He do on Christmas day? Is a question that each one of us ought to critically think about.

  14. To an ungodly world Christmas is that tiny reminder with Christmas carols and songs about Christs birth, Now we see over the top but usually hard hearted christians attacking this as pagan. Show me the souls you are bringing into Gods path and the Spirit that is feeding you. Satan attacks from every side


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