On December 25, the world celebrates the birth of Jesus, and every year some Christians focus on the birth of Christ and others spread pagan history…
We have no confirmation of this date as the birth of Christ from history or the Bible, but we also have no reason to argue about the subject or to ignore the day altogether. Every time we criticize Christmas—which in people’s minds should be a moment of celebration among Christians—we build a wall instead of bridges. A healthier approach, in accordance with the Spirit of Prophecy, is to use the opportunity of the season to honor God. To explain, I have separated some advice from Ellen White that summarizes her counsel on this topic.
Does Christmas Matter?
The Day Not to Be Ignored: 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.AH, p. 478
Usually, during this time of year, families have a few days off and gather to celebrate the holiday with a special dinner. But there are also those who just see the date as an opportunity to eat and drink, and many young Christians end up involved in this type of partying. That’s one reason the advice to not ignore the day remains. Instead of arbitrarily shutting down the desire for amusement, parents should provide children with adequate outlets for their desire to take part in this season.
As a church, we should hold special services to share with our visitors the hope we have in Jesus. After all, the world often forgets the “birthday Boy” altogether. We can also showcase the best vegetarian and healthy options for a Christmas dinner after the service.
Something I’ve noticed year after year, even among my family members, is that they become more receptive to the gospel. People who never go to church and who always find excuses to refuse the invitation are suddenly willing to attend services. When they invite us to family gatherings, they even provide us with the opportunity to share a message before Christmas dinner.
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…AH, p. 478
Christmas has become synonymous with gift giving and gift receiving. While there’s nothing wrong with that, the advice is to give gifts that will bring a real benefit to the recipient. This shouldn’t be an excuse to gratify every whim of children’s fancy or to spend more than we have for a fleeting moment of surprise or delight. Instead, note the need of those around you. Books always make exceptional gifts. Teach children, through example, to feel gratitude for the simplest tokens.
Once again, we can focus on giving these gifts to those who need it. Remember the children in orphanages, the elderly who often feel abandoned by their family, or that neighbor you’ve never spoken to. Small pleasantries can open doors to friendships and form an opportunity to share the gospel. Involve your family in the plans to prepare gifts to others. Teach that the gift can be in the giving.
Jesus Not to Be Forgotten
Brethren and sisters, while you are devising gifts for one another, I would remind you of our heavenly Friend…AH, p. 480
During Christmastime, people are more likely to serve others and to listen. I know we should be like this all year, but I am grateful to God for the opportunity this time of the year brings to awaken men and women to our purpose: to lighten one another’s burdens. Those who never have time to “hear” the cry of the needy, now open their hearts to the suffering of others. People donate sizeable sums of money to NGOs and come together to raise funds for worthy causes.
It should be our joy to encourage these attitudes and offer guidance and support. Local churches should be a haven for those who don’t have anywhere else to go on Christmas. How many lost, wandering souls could be touched and brought in from the cold into a warm church on Christmas! How many hearts could be moved to spread hope overseas through an invitation to participate or contribute to a mission or a Welfare Department fund!
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, p. 480
Christmas is not an excuse to nestle into the same traps of consumerism as the rest of the world. The title of this article is “Christmas and the Adventist Reformer” for a reason. We are Adventists, celebrating daily the Lord’s first advent and awaiting and working for His second. We are also Reformers seeking “to change to a better state” what we can.
Can we, in the way we act and observe this holiday, present the world with a wholesome alternative to how it currently celebrates? Can we draw the focus back to Christ?
“Shall We Have a Christmas Tree?”
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.AH, p. 482
I grew up hearing terrible things about Christmas trees. When I was older, I noticed some inconsistencies and researched for myself. During my research, I came across these texts about the tree. I completely changed my thinking and never judged those who decide to have a tree at home. But I fell in love with the fact that the tree serves a greater purpose than just beautifying the home. Here in Brazil, it’s common in some places to hang small gift boxes or letters containing requests by children and families in need. You take a letter from the tree and leave a gift instead. What could be a more noble decoration?
In no case should mere amusement be the object of these gatherings.AH, p. 483
Once again, we should do everything with intention and purpose. A tree for the sake of having a tree, to spend money on ostentatious decorations, to amuse…is not enough. Let it be a tool to teach children of the Source for an evergreen life. Let it be a reminder of the cross He carried, the gift He presented in birth and death.
So should we celebrate Christmas? If so, how? Adventist Home has an entire chapter on Christmas and others on holidays, celebrations, recreations, but you and your family will make the individual choices. It isn’t, by any means, imperative to celebrate at all! Perhaps Christmas was never part of your culture or your childhood. Maybe your family has other plans during this season. Maybe you have adult children. Maybe you know the best thing for your family is to abstain. Whatever the case, there is no demand to celebrate, to have trees or exchange gifts. But there’s also a difference between abstaining from celebration and condemning celebration and spreading ill will.
If those who wish to celebrate are seeking to use this season for God’s glory, to deepen their relationship with Him, to teach their children about a different way to celebrate, then encourage them if not join them. We must not miss out on opportunities. We can use this day to “reach the unreachable”, some of whom may be in our own homes.
A list of family activities here.
A list of ways to help others here.