McMinnville Seventh-day Adventist Church


Why I Celebrate Christmas

What is Christmas? It means “Christ’s Mass.” Mass or Eucharist refers to the communion or Last Supper. If asked, most people today would probably say that Christmas refers to the birth of Jesus, but is December 25 the true date of His birth? No. Most of us recognize that December 25 has pagan origins. What is the origin of Christmas? Wikipedia summarizes it as follows:

Sol Invictus (“the undefeated Sun”) or, more fully, Deus Sol Invictus (“the undefeated sun god”) was a religious title that allowed several solar deities, including Elah-Gabal, a Syrian sun god; Sol, the god of Emperor Aurelian; and Mithras, a soldiers' god of Persian origin, to be worshipped collectively. Emperor Elagabalus (218–222) introduced the festival of the birth of the Unconquered Sun (or Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) to be celebrated on December 25, and it reached the height of its popularity under Aurelian, who promoted it as an empire-wide holiday. With the growing popularity of the Christianity, Jesus of Nazareth came to be given much of the recognition previously given to a sun god, thereby including Christ in the tradition.

The logic was that the sun god was born during the winter solstice, which is when the sun is the lowest on the horizon, and that it grows as the sun warms toward the summer months. Each winter it dies, just to be born again anew in December. The paradox is that this argument does not work for the southern hemisphere.

So, why would I choose to celebrate Christmas when I know it has pagan origins? Ellen White’s counsel here is that we should not avoid the celebration of Christmas, but focus our celebration on the true meaning of Christmas and use it as a tool to witness to His glory. Here are a few questions you may have asked before, and her answers.

Should we avoid celebrating Christmas?

“As the 25th 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.” {AH 478, my emphasis}.

How should we celebrate Christmas?

“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, my emphasis}.

Should we give gifts to each other?

“It is right to bestow upon one another tokens of love and remembrance if we do not in this forget God, our best friend. We should make our gifts such as will prove a real benefit to the receiver. I would recommend such books as will be an aid in understanding the word of God or that will increase our love for its precepts. Provide something to be read during these long winter evenings.” {AH 479, my emphasis}.

Should we have a Christmas tree?

“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 482} My emphasis.

What should the gifts on the tree be for?

Ellen White makes several suggestions, which include the “worthy poor” (MYP 311), “the helpless” (AH 482), “those with large families”, (AH 482), “the work of God and the upbuilding of His kingdom” (AH 483), church buildings (AH 482), and mission (MYP 312). She says, “Set your children’s thoughts running in a new, unselfish channel by inciting them to present offerings to God for the gift of His only-begotten Son.” (AH 481) Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could train our children to buy a gift for a needy child to put on or under our tree at home, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have a Christmas tree in church and bring our gifts for the House of God (e.g. the plumbing needs in our church)?

The challenge of the holiday season for me lies in three areas, the gifts God has given me – my money, my health, and my time. As a steward of His gifts, what will you buy, what will you eat, and how will you amuse yourself during the holiday season? May your prayerful decision be, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:31).

- Pastor Jerry Joubert