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The Meaning of Christmas — 60 Comments

  1. The SDA churches I frequent and the church I am a member of do not celebrate Christmas and never have done, as far as I am aware.
    Has Christmas always been celebrated by SDA's or has the a tradition been accepted by our faith more recently?

    • Thanks for your question, Serenity. Yes the Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes the holiday of Christmas, and we can trace this back well into the 1800's. Ellen White references Christmas many times in her writings. For instance in Manuscript 24, written on December 25, 1989, she wrote "Last night the Christmas [Eve] celebration was held in the [Battle Creek] Tabernacle, and it passed off well."

      In the publication "Bible Echo" she wrote on January 1, 1892, "On Christmas day our hall was full. Many had come in from Sydney, Adelaide, Ballarat, and the smaller churches. The Lord gave me much of his Spirit in speaking of the first advent of Christ, when angels heralded his birth to the waiting shepherds and sang their glad songs over the plains of Bethlehem."

      In that same publication, on December 15 of the same year, she wrote, "O, may the coming Christmas be the best one you have ever enjoyed, because you have brought gifts to Jesus, and given yourselves and your all without reservation to Him who has given all for you."

      Perhaps a more important issue for Seventh-day Adventists is not whether Christmas should be observed but in the manner of its observation. On that issue, Ellen White had much to say. Perhaps one of the best known examples is found in an article she wrote for the Review and Herald that was published December 11, 1879: "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 intrusted 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 important principles that she outlines are that Christmas should be used to direct the attention of the people to the Savior, and that in the holiday festivities it should not be forgotten to show our appreciation to God for the salvation that Jesus brought us with our generosity in making it possible for the message to be spread far and wide, the message about the precious One, born in a manger, Who died to save all mankind.

      In 1903, Jasper Wayne, began a practice that eventually became known as "Ingathering." After World War II, Ingathering came to be more closely identified with Christmas. As such it incorporated the very principles that Ellen White had written about. Groups of church members would go door-to-door in their communities singing Christmas hymns for their neighbors. While they were singing, others would go to the door and leave literature and ask for donations to further the work.

      I first experienced this work in 1969. As one of those who went to the doors, I cannot begin to recount how many times I went to the door to find families dealing with some emotional trauma like an illness or a death. Often they invited me into their homes to have special prayer with them. I was always honored to minister to them in this way. To me this is the real meaning of Christmas, and I am glad for the Christmas season that makes it possible for it to happen.

      For some churches this was their only attempt all year to go to their neighbors' homes with the good news of Jesus Christ. Sadly, for various reasons, some churches have allowed this important work to languish, and they no longer go to their non-Adventist neighbors' homes at all. But I would ask them, "Could there be a better purpose for Christmas than that?"

      If you wish to read more on this topic, Serenity, I would suggest the chapter entitled "Christmas" in the book "The Adventist Home," by Ellen White.

      • Thank you for the response Stephen and the suggested EGW reading.
        Its seems that SDA celebrations of Christmas are more popular in the US, not so much in the UK.
        I am concerned more so from a historical perspective, the origins of Christmas as a celebration of Christ's birth also incorporates many pagan (pre-Christian) traditions which are associated with ancient practices of worshipping nature (rather than the Creator). It was believed doing so would hasten the period winter solstice, increase fertility and protect from evil spirits that became more active in the dark and cold months, amongst other similar beliefs.
        For me personally, the origins the celebration are problematic, secondly as we are all aware there is much debate but no actual evidence of Jesus' birth taking place in December.
        When faced with uncertainty about Christian practice rather than take the "good" from the bad and go along with it, I prefer to go directly to the scriptures, all other readings are secondary. Where EGW writings endorse the practice of Christmas but the Bible does not, I go with the Bible.
        The Bible does not instruct us to celebrate Jesus' birth, we do not know when it actually occurred and Christmas celebration is laced many with un-Christian practices both ancient and modern, for these reasons I personally feel no need to celebrate it.
        My decision to become a Christian is a life long celebration of Jesus' birth, death & resurrection, so in my mind Christmas is just an ambiguous man-made festival.
        The opinion that it is a good time/opportunity to reach out non-Christians and share God's love maybe true, but this goes for any day/month of the year...there are sick, hungry, lonely and poor people around us and in need of God's love all year round.
        My church runs different outreach programmes, monthly on rotation. December is prison ministry month and that's what we are concerning ourselves with at this time.

        • Chritsmas has been debated for years among SDA Christians. This simple fact alone is another reason why we shall not celebrate Christmas.

          Such celebration, with no unity that bring us together, but rather divise the church and the community at large, shall push to the side until the ultimate truth from the ultimate source , the Holy Bible has come to light!

          In the meantime let us focus on the call of duty Jesus himself has commanded us in Matthew 28:18-20 "Go to all nations and make disciples..." Not just one season but every day. "Behold I am with you always..." not just for one moment but in every aspect of your life!

          Let us partake in this noble cause that makes heaven rejoice for every single soul who was lost but now found!

          Let us teach them the right doctrine, undebatable biblical truths, such as: the Sabbath, Evangelism, Creation, and the Fruit of the spirit!

          May God bless you all ~ Happy New Year 2012!

          Many thanks to ssnet staff who allow me to study online and share with my beloved these words.

        • F. Jean, I very much appreciate and concur with your sentiments that we should give ourselves wholeheartedly to the noble cause.
          However, I do find a few of your concepts quite interesting. Because Christmas has been debated, do you therefore want nothing to do with it? Righteousness by faith has been debated far more, but personally I want everything to do with it. I have nothing to urge in promoting Christmas, but I do find your reasoning rather curious.
          Because different church members do things slightly differently, do you regard this as unacceptable division? If so, what method have you used in determining which side of the question is at fault? If someone were promoting Christmas as a doctrine and a religious observance, yes, that would be unbiblical indeed. Is this what you see happening? As far as I can see, our emphasis is on actual Bible teachings, as you have suggested it should be.
          God's blessings to you too!

      • Christmas as a Holiday.--"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? . . . {AH 477.1}
        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. But the silence of the Scriptures upon this point evidences to us that it is hidden from us for the wisest purposes. {AH 477.2}
        In His wisdom the Lord concealed the place where He buried Moses. God buried him, and God resurrected him and took him to heaven. This secrecy was to prevent idolatry.

        • Thank you, Izzy for sharing quotes from "The Adventist Home" chapter "Christmas." This chapter can be read in its entirety online at http://www.crcbermuda.com/reference/ellen-white-books-a-f/adventist-home/706-christmas

  2. does the adventist church celebrate chrismas? the bible says shepherds were watching there flocks by night could this had happend in winter?what is its origin?

    • For me celebrating is equally important like other clebrations but not legally doing so for the sake of saying that our Lord was born on this particular date because it was hidden from us. If God saw that it was important for us to know, He would have done so. But because of its little importance, it was concealed. So if you celebrate or not it doesnt make any sense.
      God Bless You

  3. Dear Serenity and Khushi,
    Whether or not the "Adventist Church" celebrates Christmas is not the focus of the post. And the author points out that we do not know when Christ was born.

    But the world does celebrate Christmas -- even in countries that are not Christian. It is the one time of year that even non-believers are open to the message of the Christ child. It is the one time of year that many people attend church, when they seldom attend at other times. While the enemy of God has worked hard to obliterate the memory of the Son of God becoming one with us, there is a little window of opportunity in December of each year when we may share this stupendous truth with hearts more open to it than usual: God loves us enough to become one with us, to live with us, to live for us, and to die for us.

    I invite you to share with us what you are planning to do this season to share this message of hope with the world around you.


      Dear Inge

      Thank you for your response. Yes I am well aware of the focus of the post, which is exactly why I felt the need to question it.

      In my opinion if you choose to define Christmas as a "Christian" celebration then its based on your personal interpretation of the tradition. Christmas is not accepted by all SDA's (also there are many non-SDA Christians from various denominations that do not celebrate Christmas). I feel the post makes an assumption that we all do or should, by not explicitly stating that there are SDA's who might not celebrate Christmas and addressing the reasons why.

      For those of us who have never celebrated Christmas, the post contradicts our experiences of the SDA faith; notice it only focuses/expands on several reasons FOR celebrations of Christmas. 
      The only mention of why we 'might not' is a brief sentence where the writer reflects on if Jesus had not been born at all!

      To come to an objective conclusion about 'The Meaning of Christmas' perhaps the post should have included that this tradition not instituted by God, was not practised by followers of Christ Jesus and is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible and for these reasons some SDA's "might not" celebrate it. 

      My questions were not intended to judge SDA's that do celebrate Christmas, we must all live by grace and according to how the Holy Spirit leads us.  However as our faith is based on the Bible, it should have been clearly mentioned that it is not a biblical celebration and  SDA members who do not celebrate Christmas should have been acknowledged. This perhaps would have avoided any possible confusion about whether the "Adventist Church" does, or do not celebrate Christmas.

      • Dear Serenity,

        Thank you for expressing your concerns. I believe that the original post and subsequent comments indicate that December 25th is what we make it. Neither the day nor the word have intrinsic meaning, apart from the meaning we choose to ascribe to it as individuals and as a society.

        I didn't see Tony's post as advocating Christmas celebration so much as recognizing the fact of December 25th being a date that people around the world have chosen to celebrate the birth of Christ.

        Ellen White's comments make clear that the problem is neither with the date nor the name, but the way we choose to relate to it. She suggested things we should avoid doing and things we could or should do as Seventh-day Adventist Christians to recognize the season in a manner that glorifies Christ. I see the emphasis in Tony's post as being in harmony with her counsel, as is the emphasis in all the Adventist churches I have attended in my life. What people do privately may be another story. We do not know how much they give to Jesus, compared to what they spend on themselves. I have not visited all the homes to see whether Christmas spending is extravagant, and it's not my business to do so.

        In our own family, for several generations, Christmas eve has been the time to review the Bible story of the birth of Christ, as related in the gospels, and to sing Christmas carols. It has always been a solemn and joyful time, and we expect to follow that tradition this year. Whether or not to follow such traditions is an individual choice, as Maurice and I have already mentioned.

        You suggest that we should have mentioned that the Christmas tradition "was not instituted by God." It seems to me that such a statement would be quite superfluous, because I know of no one who would suggest that it was "instituted by God." We have other traditions that were "not instituted by God" -- such as the tradition of worshiping in a church building, singing hymns to the accompaniment of a piano or organ and the Sabbath morning order of service (whatever order you follow), having youth rallies, to name the most obvious. Neither do we follow the instructions for dressing in robes with borders of blue, and we have adopted such new traditions as riding to church in/on some kind of mechanical conveyance. Some follow a tradition of meeting Friday evenings for the beginning of Sabbath and Sabbath evening for its ending -- neither of which was "instituted by God."

        The bottom line is that God gave us freedom to institute traditions that are in harmony with the principles of His Word. But these traditions are not to be taught as being equal to biblical commands. Thus, we would be wrong to say that those who not recognize the first advent of Christ on December 25th are sinning, even though it is a tradition that has been followed in our church since its beginnings. It is also equally wrong to suggest that those who choose to recognize the first advent of Christ at the end of December are sinning. Except for the most obvious transgression of God's commandments, sin is usually a matter of the heart, and only God can judge the heart.

        May all who read this determine to put Christ first in whatever they choose to do this season. And may you be abundantly blessed as you do so.

  4. Christmas is celebrated by Christians to remember Christs birth. I also know many sda's who do not celebrate Christmas. Because it is not a biblical feast or celebration. For me personally, it is a joyous time of the year, and i emphasize the Christian message, but all the worldy fuss around Christmas is just that: worldy. So people who say it's a christian celebration... it has a christian message, but christmas is not a biblical celebration.

  5. [A young boy's perspective written almost 60 years later.]
    When I was eleven years old we lived on a large cattle ranch in British Columbia. Besides the beef cattle they ran a flock of 1000 ewes. Lambing season was early spring and I had the joy of helping the shepherds assist in the birthing and care of the lambs and their mothers.

    I was even awarded with a small flock of my own, the orphan lambs. I kept them for a number of years on our property close in to the town of Merritt. Mom used to call me out of school to aid the birthing ewes. My classmates teased me that I was 'the mid wife'.

    It was during the lambing season that the shepherds kept watch both night and day, so that they could assist in the birthing process. Perhaps those shepherds keeping watch over the flocks by night back at Bethlehem were there because of the lambing season. That's how I saw it then.

    After our lambs were about 6 weeks old the shepherds would move the flock to the range, to the greening grass and follow the greening of the grass at higher elevations until the fall weather brought them home for the winter, and the cycle began again.

    As a boy I reasoned that because Bethlehem weather was warmer, late December and January was probable best suited for their lambing season so December 25 seemed reasonable for the time to celebrate Jesus' birth. Was he not the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world? A young shepherds rationale. And it's good enough for me these 60 years later. Not proof, but no one has proof positive for the correct date.

    The "correct date" really does not matter. We could celebrate our Saviour's birth in July, but here in the northern hemisphere, it wouldn't have quite the same symbolic significance as coming in the dark of winter.

    The early church chose a date to celebrate the birth of our Saviour and that is just fine. Satan has been doing everything he can to corrupt that remembrance and celebration. Lets not join him in his corruptions and his attempts to destroy that remembrance.

  6. At a time when the great unchurched multitude are most likely to give at least a passing thought to Christianity and the meaning of Jesus, it seems counter-productive to call the event celebrating Christ's birth a pagan festival. Every opportunity should be taken to ensure that people know that we have been affected by the grace of Christ. It is quite possible to celebrate Christmas in an entirely Christian way. For example, I know of Seventh-day Adventist Churches that make a point of donating to the Salvation Army Christmas food appeal. What better way is there to celebrate Christmas than sharing with others?

    There are historical links between Christmas and festivals of ancient cultures, but few people would know that and even fewer would understand any effort by Christians to point those links out at this time of the year. We can celebrate the birth of Christ without the baggage. At this time of the year, many extended families come together in reunion. Family and faith should go together like bread and butter. In a sense, Christ came to earth to reunite the human family with God - it is worth a celebration.

  7. I wonder, most of SDAs have camp meeting during the easter (the week christians remember the death of Jesus Christ and during the christmas the same have revival meetings. Do the SDAs celebrate the xmas or they see that its the right time to bring up the broken hearts to the true faith in the name of Jesus Christ?

  8. The writer begins by stating that we do not know the date of Jesus' birth, then later states, "it was at such a time that the Lord entered this world'. How did this leap occur?

    • Dear Corinthia,

      I believe Tony makes the connections clear in paragraphs 2 and 3:
      "Winter is the season of despair. It is the time when darkness creeps over the earth ..."
      In the third paragraph, Tony demonstrates how "dark" the world was at the first advent of Christ. "It was just at such a time ..."

      Another writer says something similar in this in these words:

      With his own evil characteristics [Satan] sought to invest the loving Creator. Thus he deceived angels. Thus he deceived men. He led them to doubt the word of God, and to distrust His goodness. Because God is a God of justice and terrible majesty, Satan caused them to look upon Him as severe and unforgiving. Thus he drew men to join him in rebellion against God, and the night of woe settled down upon the world.

      The earth was dark through misapprehension of God. That the gloomy shadows might be lightened, that the world might be brought back to God, Satan's deceptive power was to be broken. Desire of Ages, p. 22

      I highly recommend reading the whole chapter.

  9. Dear Inge

    There is a window of opportunity every single day. We should speak about the Lord Jesus Christ every chance we get i.e. in season and out of season. Our constant focus should be on turning each and every conversation to the goodness of God and the gospel of salvation. We should not wait for Christmas - a celebration that is really pagan sun-worship dressed in the garments of Christianity.

    • I am sorry Phillipa, that you see so much paganism in Christmas. I grew up in a Seventh-day Adventist home, where Christmas was the great extended family gathering that bonded us together in both family and faith. Little children forming strong memories of grandparents and uncles, aunts and cousins from overseas. We sang songs of our faith together, retold the old stories, ate food based on family recipes from long ago. Admittedly we were a bit ambivalent about when we celebrated Christmas. I remember that hay-making pushed it to January 16 one year.

      I remember our last Christmas before I left home. Two grandparents had died that year and I was about to go overseas to further my education. I knew it was never going to be the same again. But the memory of those times sharing faith and family is strong and influential in my life. I am a grandparent myself now, and I want my children to have that same faith-sharing experience that I grew up with. We are very much what we remember. I have good faith affirming memories of shared Christmases and this year I will be sharing my Christmas with our extended family once again. Further, we are carrying on a family tradition that my parents and grandparents had of sharing our family Christmas with some of the lonely people in our church. If it is good for us it is good for them too!

      And you want me to tell my family and friends that all that is pagan?

    • Phillipa, you are so right in suggesting that "we should speak about the Lord Jesus Christ every chance we get." 🙂

      But does that mean we should ignore the window of opportunity when people are particularly receptive?

      It seems to me grossly unfair to characterize Christmas as "a celebration that is really pagan sun-worship dressed in the garments of Christianity." The season is what we make it -- we can make it "really pagan" or we can make it "really Christian." The choice is ours. Of course, we also have the freedom to choose to totally ignore the day.

      As for me and my house, for the sake of our family, we choose to make it Christian within our circle of influence. That, by the way, is what Ellen White counseled us to do nearly 150 years ago. And I believe it's still good advice.

  10. Christmas--a Time to Honor God.--By the world the holidays are spent in frivolity and extravagance, gluttony and display. . . . Thousands of dollars will be worse than thrown away upon the coming Christmas and New Year's in needless indulgences. But it is our privilege to depart from the customs and practices of this degenerate age; and instead of expending means merely for the gratification of the appetite or for needless ornaments or articles of clothing, we may make the coming holidays an occasion in which to honor and glorify God. {AH 480.3}
    Christ should be the supreme object; but as Christmas has been observed, the glory is turned from Him to mortal man,(SANTA CLAUS) whose sinful, defective character made it necessary for Him to come to our world.

  11. Christmas should be a special time for bringing gifts to Jesus.--Yesterday was Christmas. Did you do as the Wise Men did by offering your gifts to Jesus? Or has the enemy changed the order of things, and directed the worship to himself? The gifts are now bestowed upon friends instead of Him who has made so great a sacrifice for us. All the gifts should flow in another channel, where they could be used in the salvation of men.--UL 374. {PaM 182.1}

  12. The wise men have left us an example of what we should do. Jesus should be the object of our adoration, the recipient of our gifts. It is not man, but our Redeemer, that should be honored. To Him we should offer our praise and gifts and treasures; but instead of this, the world sets its treasures flowing in the channel of self-gratification, and to the honor of men. Christmas gifts are bestowed on our children, on our friends and relatives, and few think of what they can do to show their love and gratitude to God for his great love and compassion upon them. {BEcho, December 15, 1892 par. 10}
    In celebrating Christmas, fathers, mothers, children, and friends are diverted from the great object to which the custom is attributed. They give their whole attention to the bestowal of gifts upon one another, and their minds are turned away from the contemplation of the Source of all their blessings both spiritual and temporal. In their attention to gifts and honors bestowed upon themselves or their friends, Jesus is unhonored and forgotten. Parents should seek to teach their children to honor Jesus. They should be instructed how He came to the world to bring light, to shine amid the moral darkness of the world. They should be impressed with the fact that "God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." {BEcho, December 15, 1892 par. 11}

  13. Sadly, my/our experience in the UK is such that the general public are NOT more receptive to the gospel at Christmas. It is such a topical issue and as a newly converted Adventist i actually noticed that we constantly say it is the right time to share the message but ALL our so called Christmas programmes, events etc are about us, our presents, our concerts, our food etc. After a few years in the church i am still waiting to see anyone use the "momentum" (words used before i was converted) created during Christmas carried forward in January, February, March or indeed the rest of the year to follow up on people who had been "more receptive" in December.

    • Dear Chengetai,

      I am sorry that this has been your experience in the church. Kindly remember that condtions in the U.K. do not necessarily represent the whole world. In my humble opinion, there are places where the Christmas season is an opportunity to share the gospel, and there are those (such as in broadcasting) who are seeking to use it to reach people for Jesus.
      God bless!

      • Dear R.G.White

        Perhaps you missed the point Chengetai was making....
        By identifying their own experience & stating their location it indicates that he/she was not generalising or suggesting that a personal experience 'represents the whole world'.
        From my understanding Chengetai was sharing the opinion that if Christmas is used as an opportunity to reach non-Christians at this time of year, then AFTER Christmas their local church needs to maintain the same enthusiasm for sharing God's love and make much more effort to build long-lasting relationships with those same individuals that were witnessed to during Christmas.

        • Dear Serenity,
          Personally, I'm not sure whether she was actually expressing that opinion or not, but I'm glad that you have shared it. Amen, sister!

      • Hi R.G White.
        Thank you for your comment. I am not of the school of "Christmas is evil". I also accept that the conditions in the UK are not reflective of the rest of the world. My humble opinion and observation (please bear in mind i am relatively new to Christianity), is that Christmas has fallen into that controversial area where hip-hop music, coffee shops in church, and smoking areas in the church grounds have gained currency on the basis that "more people will listen to our message" because the "unchurched" see us doing or accomodating something they practice and as a result we look more like them. As per my last comment, i struggle to see what it is that differentiates our approach to Christmas than the rest of the world. I love the Lord, i think we should commemorate His birth, and also His life, and His death and have a focus on his soon return - something we seem to miss at times. I was humbled by the direction of a dear Pastor who directed me to Adventist Home in which Ellen G White talks in quite favourable terms about this season when i was struggling and focusing on my Wickipaedia research and conspiracy theories (something most new converts can get sucked into in some churches). However, having read, i have yet to receive or see anyone in church give anyone else a Christ "orientated" present as Sister White advocates. It's X-boxes, top ten hit singles, etc that gain currency. The disappointment amongst some children in the congregation is so noticeable in January when their presents are clearly not as expensive or flashy as those of others whose parents can afford X Box kinects and iPhone 4s. I think it is vital for us to show the world that we can engage them during this season but in a way that is so different to what the world has to offer. It is also imperative that we move away from saying "we gave 60-70 invite cards and copies of Steps to Christ" at our last carol service at the Mall - and actually follow up on people and show them that the Season of Hope and Goodwill in the Adventist Church is not confined to the 14 days of December but, the Adventist Church is pointing to a LIFE of hope and goodwill and wants the world to meet not a little baby in a manger BUT a Crucified, Risen and Soon Coming Saviour. God bless you and may the Lord use you in a mighty way during this season and for the following months and years.

        • Dear Chengetai,
          Thank you for the kind and thoughtful reply. It has helped me to understand just a bit of the heartache and struggle behind your original comments. Like Ruth, who became an Israelite, you have come under the wings of the LORD of hosts by joining and identifying with God's people.
          I believe that God has a purpose in connecting you with His church. Look to Jesus, and let Him be your wisdom and strength. Hold fast to your idealism as a Christian, and if necessary, gather warmth from the coldness of others.
          May God use you in a mighty way, and bless you always.

  14. I'm very suprised with this news about Christmas. I think church leaders will need to clear this up. In East Africa, Christmas celebration is not practised at all. The camps are organized because it is time of the year when there is long holiday vacation for students, and special to make them not involve in Christmas activities. If an adventist engage in celebration, the church elders will visit that person and tell him not to. I'm on cross roads.

    • Dear Rebecca with the beautiful name of my daughter-in-law 🙂

      Neither Tony nor the rest of us who choose to remember Christ's birth around the 25th of December, according to our cultural traditions, are advocating that you should change your traditions to do the same.

      I don't know what you mean by engaging in "celebration" in your culture.

      What it means here is that we sing songs about Christ being born -- most of them being in our Adventist Hymnal. (Years ago, we used to go door to door, singing these songs and asking the public to contribute money to use in helping the poor.) We usually have a Sabbath School and church service focusing on Immanuel, God with Us. And some of the larger churches will actually re-enact some of the scenes surrounding the birth of Christ and invite the community to attend. I know of people who have been introduced to Jesus that way. But we do not attach any spiritual significance to the 25th of December. It just happens to be the day that much of our culture is focused on the birth of Christ. And when we focus our services on the birth of Christ, it is much easier to get our friends and neighbors to attend than at any other time of the year. (I suspect the devil doesn't like it, and he would love to have us emphasize pagan practices instead.)

      Perhaps "celebrations" in East Africa are not of the type that are suitable for followers of Jesus?

      There are also many things in our culture that conscientious Christians avoid -- such as activities surrounding "Santa Claus," and other imaginary figures. We try to avoid the excesses in which the world engages -- both in food and gift giving. In every church I've ever attended, some special recognition of the poor has been part of Christmas recognition.

      We should be able to ask Christ's blessing on our activities -- whether they be at Christmas, or any other time of year, and that makes a difference in what we choose to do.

      A beautiful tradition in our society is the public performance of Handel's oratorio, "The Messiah." It is music composed for the singing of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah to come. Some of the singers and musicians who perform it may not even believe in Christ, but many have testified to being uplifted by the performance. For a believer in Christ, being part of such a performance, or even being in the audience, is a memorable experience. It etches the words of the prophecies in the mind to the sounds of music. Whenever I read the words of Isaiah 53 KJV, I hear music. And I daresay, most people who have ever heard "The Messiah," will hear the music to Isaiah 9:5,6 KJV, when they read the words. And the music never grows old, so we like to hear it again, whenever we can. Here's the full text of "The Messiah". (With all the repetitions it takes about 2 1/2 hours to perform. You may be able to hear portions of the Messiah on Youtube.com, if you have good internet access.)

      You have probably concluded from what has been quoted above that recognition of Christmas is not a new thing in the Adventist church. It goes back to our very beginnings, as the writings of our pioneers, including Ellen White, indicate. But the Seventh-day Adventist church has never made an official statement regarding either promoting or condemning the recognition of Christmas. It is an individual decision to make, through prayer and submission to the Holy Spirit. What may be good in one culture may not be good in another.

  15. Celebrating Christmas is, I think a personal decision, and I think the last thing we need is a church action or position. We do need to be tolerant of one another though. I think that the way that our family has celebrated Christmas is an important sharing time for both the family and those we invite to share with us. At the same time, I have friends for whom I have a great deal of respect who do not celebrate Christmas at all. While I disagree with them, I still accept them as my friends in Christ.

    The danger is when we try to say that our way of celebrating or not celebrating Christmas is the only way and that everyone else is wrong. I share the way that our family celebrate Christmas, not as the right way, but one way to be inclusive of others, when some people feel lonely and left out. I am sure that those who do not celebrate Christmas share with Christ with others as well. Let us be tolerant and understanding of one another

  16. Dear Dumisani,

    Well, with Christmas coming in the hottest time of the year for you, the symbolism isn't quite the same, is it. 😉

    But Jesus did come in the darkest time of earth's history, and He is the Sun of Righteousness. So, for us in the northern hemisphere, celebrating His birth at the turning of the season has a lot of symbolic significance.

    I'm thinking that near the equator, you can still focus on Christ as the Sun of Righteousness and Light of the World dispelling the misapprehension of God that was/is so prevalent in this dark world. You can make a difference by letting Him shine through you in your family and your neighborhood.

  17. I think the emotive response to the genesis and origins of Christmas is causing us to lose our perspective on present day reality and how we should approach our sharing of the gospel.

    We all agree that "Christmas" was conceptualised under non-christian traditions and the worldly festival surrounding it does not reflect what we consider to be christian principles. Let's do a reality check. It's here, It's happening and it's highlighting of the birth of Jesus as the Saviour of the world is not lost in the translation. So how do we as SDA Christians deal with it.

    Some have determined that they will have nothing to do with it based on its dubious origins and present day observance and that is fine. Others have used this time as an opportunity to highlight what the true meaning of the birth of the son of God means in the context of biblical record, i.e taking the example of the wise men who, understanding the significance of the occasion and in the spirit of their tradition, traveled long distances and brought gifts as a token/sign of reverence/respect for the new born king. The Bible does not record if this act was right or wrong.

    Even if you do not agree to its observance, the very fact that the birth of Jesus is celebrated the way it is in the world must cause you to reflect on the tainted message that it sends to those looking on who have no profession of faith. Satan has gone to great lengths to change the significance of this day's meaning from one where true observance should be one of respect, reverence and reflection for those who observe it and which the wise men adopted, to one where the main emphasis is on buying, selling, eating, drinking and making merry. This in itself is strikes at the core of our message.

    The Gospel should not be misrepresented. Jesus came to bring good news but more that that he came to save and redeem a fallen world. Our task is to assist in any way to bring this message to the world, even at "Christmastime". How we achieve this is through the aiding of the Holy spirit. Continue to pray for guidance and ask God to lead you in your thoughts and actions in this matter especially at this time.

  18. Dear Chengeta,

    I do agree with you that in the UK the 'Christmas spirit' tends to focus on us instead of the communities we live in. Where are the carol services in communities? How about presents for the homeless, those suffering from addictions, depressed etc? They are there in our communities. I must also say that this should not be reserved for Christmas time, but all year round. In our church we've started christmas caroles in nursing homes. They have been so receptive and want us to come again. So much work that needs to be done and yes people are more receptive during christmas. You can talk and sing about the birth of Christ without people raising their eye brows. Chengeta you can initiate something in your church. You can do it. Do not wait for the leaders. The Holy Spirit is speaking through you. May God bless you 🙂

    • Many thanks Elder Mac. I agree with what you said and actually expressed a lot of it in my response to Bro R.G White. I am blessed to be connected to a couple of churches who do engage in community singing and nursing home visits and that is great. Where i struggle is the energy invested in December and the "target" culture, i.e (how many tracts, leaflets etc did we distribute?). Often the numbers are substantial for a culture which is increasingly aggressively secular. It is the follow up and the genuine desire to coordinate in as a fellowship in January, and February and March etc to ensure that those "receptive" people are engaged and introduced to a faith that has a genuine love and desire to share that goodwill on an ongoing basis. When the credit card companies are chasing people who overspent on presents and are unable to meet their obligations, when health problems due to overindulging are afflicting people, when young people who engage in risky behaviour due to parties and "wild nights out" are struggling with the aftermath including unwanted and teen pregnancies, WE ARE NOT THERE. We are more coordinated for the period leading to December and we vanish after Christmas when we can give debt counselling, pregnancy advisory services and share our health message because we would have ticked our boxes in December. (70 copies of Steps to Christ Distributed - Check!, 30 hot dinner served on Christmas eve to the homeless - Check!, 5 girls from the Red light district came to the Carole Service - Check! - lets send a report of our good works "The Messenger".) It may be that i am an incurable cynic but i feel that we should show the world the work that Christ did for the rest of his life because His story did not end in a manger. He came to seek and save that which was lost. Before i depress everyone, let me stop.
      Many blessings to your church and for work you are doing. Like you, I particularly enjoy ministering to folk in our nursing homes.

      • Chengetai, you make some excellent points. When you say, "We are not there," you are taking some responsibility. So the question is: What are you or I going to do about it?

        May God help us make decisions that glorify Him!

        • Additionally that is your experience. I do not celebrate Christmas at home in terms of trees and gifts and so forth but in many churches I have seen a lot of "follow up" that have come out of their Christmas efforts. So because that has been your experience it is not fair to expect it to be the same experience in every part of the world where SDA churches choose to use the Christmas season as a means of reaching others with the gospel.

  19. Wow. Thank God for Jesus! Merry Christmas! Prove it by your actions. Share the love. That is what Christmas is all about. By our actions, we are judged, will we be judged for being cold, with a heart of stone? Or maybe, we can use this time of year to show someone that they are cared for, that there is hope, and best of all, that Jesus did come to earth as a babe in a manger.

    There are many principles involved here. It is a time to give, maybe of your heart, maybe just your time, but always with love.

    We do not know the exact day Jesus was born on, it was along time ago, when the world was at its darkest hour. It was God giving to us the greatest gift ever given.

    We celebrate birthdays,wedding anniversarys, and do many things the "pagans" did, but then have a problem with Christmas. Wow.

    Merry Christmas! And may God draw near to us all this season!

    • Dear Glenn, I liked your contribution very much. Except at the end, you assumed,as everyone else, that everyone celebrates birthdays and anniversaries. That, however, is not so. In some families, including mine, only the weekly Sabbath was and is celebrated. I am not at all suggesting that others follow suit, but just pointing out that one should never make broad assumptions. 🙂 I hope you enjoyed a blessed Christmas!

  20. Why is Jesus being referred to as the Sun of Rightiousness? Should that be Son of Rightiousness. Please explain.

    • Malachi 4:2

      New King James Version (NKJV)

      But to you who fear My name
      The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
      With healing in His wings;
      And you shall go out
      And grow fat like stall-fed calves.

  21. Hi Maurice,

    I truly appreciate your comment. To all - One thing that we all have to be mindful of is that it is not our duty to neither “convict" nor convince anyone of anything. This is the Holy Spirits job. Psa 32:8 is one of my favorite scriptures which says "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye". Pro 3:5-7 tells us to "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (6) In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (7) Be not wise in thine own eyes:..".

    In reading the story of the adulterous women in John 8, the scribes and Pharisees were convicted after reading (hearing v. 8:9) Christ when he wrote in on the ground. I believe the same is true for us all. We should seek God on every point and after listening to Him we "being convicted by their own conscience" will be on right and safe paths. Jesus said that "...I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the ligt of life" (John 8:12). Psa 19:7 tells us that "...the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple"...for the testimony of Jesus Christ is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev 19:10). "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts" (2 Pet 1:19).

    I believe it each one's individual duty to seek truth. I also believe that you have to have an open mind to receive it when it comes. I also believe that the Spirit works with us all on different levels and times in our life. Therefore, we are not to judge one another. Matt 7:2 says "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again".

    As a church, we have the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Through prayer, supplication, and fasting Christ will lead and guide us to His truth on every subject.

    We should be showing Christ to others and leading them to Him on a daily basis by our own life example and sharing His Word. Statistics show that suicide rates are the highest around the Holiday season. I believe that it is lawful to continue to do good around those times. Again, as of what you should be doing should come from the LORD. How do we know what to do if we do not seek Him and are being lead by our own desires and not His?

    As far as celebrating the actual holidays, I suggest the same seek the LORD with an open heart. “Thoroughly” research the history of each one of them. Until we have done our parts in doing this work we should not hinder others that may feel that they are doing what’s right in the sight of the LORD regardless to how we feel about a person, the spirit of prophecy, the Bible, or the celebrating of Holidays. Share Christ and allow the Spirit to do the rest. (Sorry so long:)

    God bless!

  22. My Friends,

    In the times we live in, which are all uncertain, the enemy is hard at work. The "roaring Lion" is even now at each one of our doors.

    We can take pleasure, and happiness, in the fact that our Creator, Redeemer, Jesus Christ, is just that, and with greater effort and decided direction, share that lovely message with whomever we can, and however we may do it.

    It is now time for us all, each one of us as priests, to share, and to "do" what we know is true and right. All must point to our Savior, and that He is Coming, and the celebration of His birth, is actually a celebration of His life, through which we are all saved.

    Let us spend time sharing, and doing for others as He has given each one of us part of the great commission.

    Where do you fit in, and what has He called you to do?

    The Lord Bless on His Holy Sabbath Day.

  23. Thank you all for your comments which indeed helped me broaden my understanding of why we (SDA or as an individual) should or should not celebrate Christmas. However, I have a few points to make but should be regarded as my opinion since I don’t have any quotations.

    I have seen that most of the commentators are urging that Christmas being a time for family reunion and a better opportunity to sharing the gospel with others as most of them will be receptive because their mind will be set on this day (the birth of Christ). Jesus sent us to spread the gospel to all nations regardless of having better or bad opportunity to do so. He wants us to do it anytime, anywhere not at our convenience and knowing that He is the one who is in the front line (our leader). Ours is just to take the gospel but whether people will believe or not is not our duty to make them do so rather His (our Master) and the Holy Spirit. As a matter of family reunion, I can say that this is a convenient time for this purpose since it is a worldwide holiday most of us (workers and students) will be free, hence a good time of getting together. But is this the reason why we should celebrate Christmas?? How should we differentiate ourselves (SDAs) from the world if we do as they do. Jesus said be in the world but not of the world. If I understood EGW commentary as stated by two commentators, I quote “Perhaps a more important issue for Seventh-day Adventists is not whether Christmas should be observed but in the manner of its observation” and this is what Inge said “Ellen White’s comments make clear that the problem is neither with the date nor the name, but the way we choose to relate to it. She suggested things we should avoid doing and things we could or should do as Seventh-day Adventist Christians to recognize the season in a manner that glorifies Christ” In this case, you mean to say we should observe but in a different way from the world. How would you explain to me if I say I should observe Sunday as the Seventh Day (Saturday) but not doing as Sunday keepers are doing rather like SDAs? In short that the day does not matter?. As many commentators have said that this is more likely tradition celebrations rather than Christianity, I have these to say according to my observations.

    There has never been Christmas to celebrate. From what I know as human beings we celebrate our birthdays every year after we are born. Though this can be by an individual’s choice does not necessarily the case to everybody. This can be like that because it is the first time of our existence but not the same case with our Messiah. What I am trying to say is that Jesus has been there ever since even before the foundation of the universe (John 1:1 …..). By celebrating His birth at Christmas day shows that we choose not to believe in these bible verses. As most people celebrates their birthdays while they are alive, have you ever asked yourself why Jesus himself while still here on this earth never celebrated His birthday? Why are we celebrating it now after He has left this earth? If He told His Disciples (and us of course) to have the Lord’s Supper as remembrance of His death and resurrection don’t you think He should have told them to remember His birthday as well?

    Why I say Jesus was never born is that; that was the way of God revealing himself to us through human body in order to become like us, to be with us, to have the nature of sin so that He can save us, but we should never compare or relate Him with anything of ours. Also consider this, when Israelites told Moses that they wanted to meet God by themselves and God honored their request although as we know they could not stand meeting Him, should that have also been God’s Birthday as they were to see Him face to face on this earth for the first time?

    In conclusion, I would like to say that God gave each one of us a birthday. The Sabbath. That is why there is no where in the bible where The Trinity and the angels celebrated Adam and Eve’s birthdays. By observing the Sabbath we will be celebrating the creation and the creator, the death and resurrection of our Saviour.

    I did not mean to offend anybody but I would like everybody to feel free to enlighten me on those questions I raised.

    God Bless!

    • Helen,

      You raised a question concerning Jesus not celebrating His birthday while here on earth. I think a more interesting question to ask is why we don’t see the celebration of birthdays in general in scripture. Could it be that birthdays were not considered that important to ancient people?

      To most of us they are, that is part of our culture.

    • Dear Helen,

      You compared recognizing Christmas to keeping Sunday instead of the seventh day.

      That seems to be an unfortunate comparison. The Sabbath commandment is embedded in the heart of the Ten Commandments, and keeping any other day but the seventh is in opposition to that commandment.

      By contrast Christmas is an optional holiday chosen very early in Christian history as a day to remember the first advent of Christ. There is no biblical command for it, nor is there one against it. And remembering Christ's first advent on the 25th of December does not prevent us from obeying any of God's commandments, nor does it prevent us from remembering Him the rest of the year.

      In the western society with which I'm familiar (in Europe and North America), Christmas is a legal holiday that is celebrated by Christians and secular people alike. It is traditionally the time of year when generations of families gather together to enjoy each other's company. And because of its Christian origins, even secular people will accept Christian messages and Christian songs at this time of year.

      However, as Christians, we have the choice to go much deeper -- to contemplate the vast condescension of the Star Maker and King of Kings wrapping His glory and divinity in the humanity of a baby born in Bethlehem. We can read the story over each year and many times inbetween and not exhaust its meaning nor the reasons for gratitude.

      The Creator who keeps the stars in their courses by His power, renounced all that power to be one with us and to demonstrate His character of love in a way we could understand.

      What can we do to share that message of love with those around us?

  24. Throughout the comments, I seem to see a repeating misunderstanding. Some of those who are against the celebration of Christmas seem to be implying that those who use the opportunity to reach others for Jesus at Christmas are not doing so at any other time of the year. I doubt that this is true.

    Also some of those who are in favor of celebrating Christmas by reaching others for Jesus at that time seem to be implying that those who don't are missing an opportunity to reach others for Jesus. I also doubt that this is true.

    God has a way of reaching each of us through various means wherever we happen to be. As Christians, we are privileged to be given the opportunity to be a part of God's outreach. Perhaps we would have more opportunity to do that if instead of focusing on being for or against something, we simply focused on the lost souls He is trying to reach. That's the real meaning of every season.

    • It is interesting to see the range of opinions on Christmas.

      It is easy to see why Jesus did not say it is Christmas that will unify the Church, but rather love.

      Christmas can be a prompt for this but loving others is something that we can do every day. How we love others, rather than how others act is how we reveal Christ to the world. The question I am then asking myself at all times is how am I loving others.

      Christmas or not, how are you reflecting Christ's love for you today. God bless....

    • When will we learn - it isn't about us - It is ALL about Jesus Christ. From God's point of view, it is all about us and sending His Son - from our point of view it is all about God and sending His Son . This may seem simple but I have learned that God keeps things very simple to confound the wise.

      • While I agree that it is all about Jesus, it does not stop there. Statements like that come with responsibility. At the end of the day we need to ask ourselves how we are going to convert statements like that into practical living. Most of us live in situations where we need to relate to other people. That means talking, listening, planning, and acting. In many cases the only words of Jesus that others will here will be our words. The only miracles that they will see will be our acts of kindness. Are we prepared to accept this sort of responsibility?

        May you have some wonderful opportunities to share this Christmas season.

  25. As a native-born Englishman and an SDA of 46 years' standing, my reaction is: "Oh no! Not THAT again!" One correspondent made the point that December 25 is a legal holiday in many Western countries. As such, it sometimes falls on the Sabbath! This happened back in 1965, and I can still remember one of the leading members not only driving over to give me and two others a lift to church(no bus services on that day) but in his public prayer including a mention for those who were ignorantly worshipping God on his holy day!

    Two Sabbaths ago I heard an old lady, in her sermon, spend time delivering a tirade against us giving any kind of recognition to Christmas at all. Indeed, on another occasion she admitted that if it did fall on the Sabbath she made a point of staying away from church. Like some of your correspondents she argued that "you can do it [outreach, works of mercy] at any time of year". She also kept repeatedly trying to apply Jer.10:3 to the Christmas tree.

    I do have my grouses against the current general SDA attitude to Christmas. In too many cases it is one of sheer negativity—trying to pretend it doesn't exist. As usual, EG White strikes the happy mean, something too often ignored. As for the hymns under the heading "Incarnation", I was deeply shocked to see 142 in the SDA Hymnal; see how its last verse reads in the last two lines:
    "Mary, Joseph, lend your aid..."
    Need I say any more? There are plenty of soundly-worded hymns on this subject. One, which has been a favourite of mine since I was 10 years old, runs as follows:-

    1. "Christians awake! Salute the happy morn,
    whereon the Saviour of the world was born!
    "Rise to adore the mystery of love,
    which hosts of angels chanted from above.
    "With them the joyful tidings now begun
    of God incarnate and the Virgin's Son."

    2."Then to the watchful shepherds it was was told,
    who heard the angelic herald's voice, 'Behold,
    I bring good tidings of a Saviour's birth
    to you and all the nations upon earth.
    This day hath God fulfilled his promised word—
    this day is born a Saviour, Christ the Lord!"

    3. "He spake, and straightway the celestial choir
    in hymns of joy before unknown before conspire;
    the praises of redeeming love they sang,
    and heaven's whole orb with hallelujahs rang;
    God's highest glory was their anthem still,
    peace upon earth, and unto men, good will!"

    4."Oh may we keep, and ponder in our mind
    God's wondrous love in saving lost mankind;
    trace we the Babe who hath redeemed our loss
    from his poor manger to his bitter cross.
    Tread in his steps, assisted by his grace,
    till man's first heavenly state again takes place."

    5. "Then may we hope, the angelic thrones among,
    to sing, redeemed, a glad triumphal song;
    he that was born upon this joyful day
    shall round us all his glory shall display.
    Saved by his love, incessant shall we sing
    eternal praise to heaven's Almighty King."(see ref. below)

    If John Byrom's hymn sounds a bit long, at least it has theological meat and substance in it! To me it was a welcome contrast to the sloppy carols, all this holly and the ivy business!

    Writer: John Byrom(1692-1763)
    Tune: Yorkshire
    Composer: John Wainwright(1723-68)
    Text taken from Christian Hymns, 1977 edition, published by the Evangelical Movement of Wales(166)
    Also found in the 1952 New Advent Hymnal, which omits the last verse(99) and in The School Hymn Book of the Methodist Church(105), where verse 3 is omitted.

  26. Thank you so much for each person’s contribution to this discussion (and the spirit in which the comments were made). Although this discussion took place about a year ago now, I have appreciated reading through the many comments and found it to be helpful in understanding various points to consider when it comes to celebrating Christmas.

    James 1:5 is an encouraging promise from God (for us all to stand on): “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Proverbs 3:5-6 is similarly encouraging: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” As we trust God, as seek His wisdom for our lives and as we acknowledge Him in all we do, I am confident that God will lead us into His will for our lives. “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16) and let us reflect His love to all around us, all the time! God bless you all as you seek to do His will. 🙂