What Does Ellen G. White Say About Christmas and Christmas Trees?
It’s Christmas Day. The Christmas season usually fills the thoughts of North Americans for the entire month of December (or even earlier for the eager ones) whether they are religious or irreligious. Celebrated by special colours, festive ornaments, liberal gift-giving, and the gathering of friends and family, Christmas is full of a multitude of traditions.
Growing up as an immigrant family in Canada, my family didn’t celebrate Christmas the way most of my schoolmates did. I vaguely recall having a tiny Christmas tree at one point in my child that disappeared after a while. I also recall having some gifts given to the children that were usually things we badly needed: socks or underwear. Mostly, Christmastime meant that our extended family would be gathering to spend a meal and an evening together. So, Christmas was a time of connection and food for me, but not much more than that. My mother (bless her heart) never perpetrated the fables of Santa Claus, elves, or flying reindeer. She told us as it was: untruth.
Years later, I did some research on my own while preparing a presentation for the youth of my church on the origins of Christmas, Halloween, and Easter, none of which were ever close to my heart. I was shocked to find out the Easter bunny and eggs had evolved from the ancient worship of Ishtar, the false goddess of war and sexual love. (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ishtar-Mesopotamian-goddess) Nobody even needs to do any research to realize that Halloween is Satanic as its common for children to dress up as ghosts, witches, skeletons, and all things unpleasant. What about Christmas though? Christmas seems to stand in sharp contrast to Halloween. It is regarded as a joyful season of sharing love and helping others.
There are discrepancies in the theory behind where Christmas comes from. Each culture seems to have their own version of this holiday. As I drive down my street, I see trees decorated in lights, blown-up Santa’s waving in the winter wind, and beautifully-lit nativity scenes featuring the infant Jesus. Christmas, or “Christ mass” seems to have been an amalgamation of the story of Christ’s birth and pagan traditions: an attempt to Christianize a pagan holiday in order to gain favour with both Christians and pagans.
For those that love Christmas, this may be a hard pill to swallow, but most of the main aspects of Christmas have pagan roots. These include timing of Christmas Day, the decorated trees with gifts underneath, and the lighting of houses. The fable of the red-clothed Santa Claus is, to me, very repulsive. Santa Claus is a mystical being that is omniscient (all-knowing) because he “sees you when you’re sleeping” and “knows when you’re awake” according to the famous song “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus_Is_Comin%27_to_Town). He has servants in the form of elves that do his bidding. He has a list of good children and bad children, terribly reminiscent of God’s holy books (the book of life, the book of remembrance, and the book of records/works found in Revelation 3:5, Malachi 3:16, and Revelation 20:12 respectively). Santa Claus flies in the sky and visits every home to reward each child according to their works on the night of December 24th every year just as Jesus will one day come and reward “every one according to his work.” (Revelation 22:12)
As a Christian who believes in the unchangeable moral law of God, the Ten Commandments, we must speak truth and not lie. As a parent, I have a God-given obligation to teach my children all I know to be true and never lie to them, including leading them to believe fables or falsehoods.
So, what to do about Christmas? Abandon it completely? Ignore it while every single shop is blaring Christmas music and repurposing a portion of their shelves for Christmas-related products? That’s certainly what I do for Halloween. I try to avoid any of the terrifying costumes and decorations as much as possible. They scare my children and myself anyways.
Or should I embrace the good in Christmas and discard the false?
As I do with many decisions I have to make, I searched the inspired writings of Ellen G. White to examine the counsel given and understand what the guiding principle should be in how I approached Christmas seeing that she lived in a time when Christmas was widely observed.
Come explore some of her writings with me as I draw conclusions on how to approach Christmas. All emphasis will be mine in the following quotes. I will also put the dates of the quotes as sometimes her tone on topics changes as time goes on and she is given more light (for example: she writes about her eating meat, then was given light about meat being unhealthful).
Anyways, lets dive ahead.
This first set of quotes is from one publication on the Review and Herald on December 9, 1844. She talks extensively about Christmas, Christmas trees, and how we should approach it. The notes under are my observations.
“'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.” (Review and Herald, December 9, 1844)
- There isn’t anything about Christmas that demands “so much attention.”
- Christmas is widely accepted as Christ’s birthday.
- The world loves to celebrate Christmas, but not obey or serve Jesus
“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. 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. He against whom they rebelled while he was in active service, whom they provoked almost beyond human endurance, was almost worshiped as God after his separation from them by death. For the very same purpose he has concealed the precise day of Christ's birth; that the day should not receive the honor that should be given to Christ as the Redeemer of the world,—one to be received, to be trusted, to be relied on as he who could save to the uttermost all who come unto him. The soul's adoration should be given to Jesus as the Son of the infinite God.” (Review and Herald, December 9, 1844)
- Christmas customarily celebrates Jesus’ birth.
- The connection between Christmas and Jesus’ birth is not from history nor any biblical evidence.
- We don’t know when Jesus was born. The date isn’t important to our salvation.
- God doesn’t want us to know the date of Jesus’ birth. God “concealed the precise day of Christ’s birth” to prevent idolatry as He did for Moses’ burial place.
“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. 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 man, 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.” (Review and Herald, December 9, 1844)
- December 25th is not divinely sanctified.
- The way Christmas is observed, glory is given to man instead of Christ.
- Christ’s coming as a human is a wonderful theme.
“Parents should keep these things [great themes about the incarnation of Christ] 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.” (Review and Herald, December 9, 1844)
- Parents should teach their children about Jesus’ incarnation.
- Children should be taught that they have an obligation to God, not in giving each other gifts and honour.
- Gifts and offerings should be brought to Jesus just as the wise men and shepherds did.
“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. 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.” (Review and Herald, December 9, 1844)
- Ellen G. White doesn’t seem to say we should give Christmas attention. Nor that we should ignore it. But that it would be “difficult” to completely ignore it.
- Christmas “can be made to serve a very good purpose.”
- The focus should be offerings to God’s cause.
- Amusements (which are found in abundance in Christmas traditions) should be redirected: particularly gift-giving can be redirected to giving to God’s cause.
- We should practice self-denial and self-sacrifice.
“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.” (Review and Herald, December 9, 1844)
- We need to discern between “innocent pleasures” appropriate for our children and “sinful amusements.”
“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.” (Review and Herald, December 9, 1844)
- Having an evergreen placed inside the church is not a sin.
- Having an evergreen can amuse the children (Sabbath-school scholars).
- We shouldn’t do things merely for amusement, but for benevolence.
- We have a choice in making this season into one of “careless levity” or making it “highly beneficial.”
- Having “innocent substitutes” for normally demoralizing gatherings is suggested by Ellen White.
“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 every one 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. I present before you, my brethren and sisters, an object, the European mission. In every church let your smaller offerings be placed upon your Christmas tree. Let the precious emblem, “ever green,” 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. I heard Eld. Butler read a touching letter a few days since from Eld. Whitney, of Europe. The good work is going forward there, but it ought to have been done six years ago. Let not this work be hindered. Let it advance. If all, both old and young, will forego giving presents to one another, and forego the selfish outlay of means in these coming holidays, there would be in heaven a most precious record of self-denial for Christ's sake.” (Review and Herald, December 9, 1844)
- Ellen White urges us to make Christmas a “precious season” and seems to call this season an “innocent amusement and recreation.”
- We should bring Jesus gifts and offerings.
- Ellen White suggests that each church have a Christmas tree and offerings be placed on it. Yes, she calls it a “Christmas tree.”
- The “ever green” tree can be an object lesson for God’s goodness toward us and our work towards saving others. So the tree doesn’t have to be shunned completely merely because it’s an evergreen tree!
“Let the several churches present to God Christmas trees in every church; and then let them hang thereon the fruits of beneficence and gratitude,—offerings coming from willing hearts and hands, fruits that God will accept as an expression of our faith and our great love to him for the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ. Let the evergreen be laden with fruit, rich, and pure, and holy, acceptable to God. Shall we not have such a Christmas as Heaven can approve? Thousands of dollars are needlessly spent every year in gifts to each other. That is means lost to God, lost to his cause. It pleases the vanity, encourages pride, creates all kinds of dissatisfaction, murmuring, and complaints, because perhaps the gifts are not just what was desired, not of the high value wanted or expected. Christmas is not observed as its name implies it should be. Man has forsaken God in almost everything, and has turned the attention to self.” (Review and Herald, December 9, 1844)
- Ellen White suggests that churches have “Christmas trees” (evergreens) that are laden with fruits of offerings.
- She asks “shall we not have a Christmas as Heaven can approve?” which suggests that we are not to shun or ignore Christmas completely, but rather try to spend this season in a way that God approves of.
- We shouldn’t spent loads of money in gift-giving to each other, but rather to God’s cause.
- Needless gift-giving has many negative effects like encouraging complaining and pride.
- The way many celebrate Christmas isn’t what the name implies: Christmas used to be “Christ mass” or a day focussed on Christ! The attention is turned from God to man.
“I entreat you, my brethren and sisters, to make this coming Christmas a blessing to yourselves and others. The birth of Jesus was unhallowed by the great men of earth. He was the Majesty of heaven; yet this royal subject had no attendants. His birth was unhonored by the very men he came to our world to save. But his advent was celebrated by the heavenly host. Angels of God, in the appearance of a star, conducted the wise men on their mission in search of Jesus. They came with gifts and costly offerings of frankincense and myrrh, to pay their oblation to the infant king foretold in prophecy…” (Review and Herald, December 9, 1844)
- Ellen White “entreat[s]” her fellow Christians to “make this Christmas a blessing to yourselves and others,” which implies we aren’t just to ignore it, but make it a real blessing.
- She goes on to describe beautiful details about Jesus’ birth.
“I entreat my brethren and sisters to have a special object in view. The European mission is in great need of means to carry forward the work. In Switzerland they are building a printing office which is greatly needed; and means is wanted to carry forward this work to completion. It now seems an impossibility to supply this great need for lack of means. The missionary work must go forward. Now, brethren, let us on Christmas make special efforts to come before the Lord with gifts and grateful offerings for the gift of Jesus Christ as a Redeemer to the world. Let nothing now be spent needlessly; but let every penny that can be spared be put out to the exchangers. Satan has had his way in managing these occasions to suit himself. Now let us turn the current heavenward instead of earthward. Let us show by our offerings that we appreciate the self-denial and sacrifice of Christ in our behalf. Let God be brought to remembrance by every child and parent; and let the offerings, both small and large, be brought to the store-house of God.” (Review and Herald, December 9, 1844)
- She makes a call for “special efforts” to be made on Christmas with offerings and gifts for missionary work, such as the work in Europe at that time.
“You that have means, who have been in the habit of making donations to your relatives and friends until you are at a loss to know what to invent that will be new and interesting to them, seek to put your ingenuity to the test, as well as your influence, to see how much means you may gather to advance the work of the Lord. Let your skill and your capacities be employed to make the coming Christmas one of intense interest, paying your addresses to the God of heaven in willing, grateful offerings. Follow no longer the world's customs. Make a break here, and see if this Christmas cannot show thousands of dollars flowing into the treasury, that God's store-house may not be empty. You may not be recompensed on earth, but you will be rewarded in the future life, and that abundantly… 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 Herald, December 9, 1844)
- We shouldn’t constantly be spending money on gifting friends and relatives for their amusement, which is the world’s custom.
- We are not to follow the world’s customs.
- We are called to give liberally for the Lord and His work. She seems to imply that Christmas is a special occasion to give in gratitude to God.
This next excerpt is from the Review and Herald in 1882. It brings particular attention to the practice of gift-giving and how it should be done, if so at all. Read on.
“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…
“Let not time and means be spent in preparing gifts which will benefit neither giver nor receiver. Remember that both your time and means are intrusted you of God, and that he will call you to account for the manner in which you employ his gifts. As Christians we cannot honor a custom which is not approved of Heaven. Let us, rather, seek to bring our hearts into a right condition, to free ourselves from pride, vanity, selfishness, and every other evil, and let mercy, truth, goodness, and love dwell therein. Let us remember the Lord our Creator, and bring to him the offering of gratitude, and he will accept not only the gift but the giver. We may have such a spirit of love and joy in our hearts and homes as will make angels glad.
“If all the means that will at this holiday season be expended to gratify unsanctified desire, or that will be needlessly invested, were brought as an offering of gratitude to God, to be used in advancing his cause, what an amount would flow into the treasury! Who are willing this year to deviate from their usual custom? How many will turn their thoughts and plans into a more elevated, heavenly channel? In this time of peril and backsliding from God because of selfish indulgence, will we not look from the human to the divine? Will we not show our remembrance of God and our gratitude for his continual mercies, and, above all, for the gift of his dear Son? Shall we not seek to conform to the Divine Model? to imitate Him who went about doing good?
“I address my brethren upon whom God has bestowed of this world's goods: What will you do at the beginning of this new year to show your gratitude to the Giver of all your mercies? Will you return to him in willing offerings a portion of the gifts he has freely bestowed upon you? Will you, by your Christmas and New Year's gifts, acknowledge that all things belong to God, and that all the blessings which we receive are the result of divine beneficence?
“In every church, however small, special efforts should be made to show our gratitude to God by bringing our offerings for his cause. Let those who desire a Christmas tree make its boughs fruitful with gifts for the needy, and offerings for the treasury of God. And let the children learn the blessedness of giving by bringing their little gifts to add to the offerings of their parents.
“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. 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…” (Review and Herald, December 26, 1882).
- Gift-giving shouldn’t absorb our thoughts to neglect God and offering Him gifts of gratitude.
- Our Christmas and New Year’s gifts should show that everything we have belongs to God!
- Our Christmas and New Year’s gifts should be useful and of real benefit to the receiver! In the full script, she describes examples of books that she suggests for gifts such as some of her writings as well as other spiritual books.
- We cannot practice customs that aren’t approved of God.
- Both New Years and Christmas are opportunities to give to God’s cause.
- Those who desire a Christmas tree should fill its branches with offerings for God and gifts for the needy! This is certainly not what is customary now.
Another article from the Review and Herald on December 11, 1888 with my observations on the topic of Christmas celebrations.
“Our children have been educated to expect gifts from parents and friends upon Christmas. Christmas is celebrated to commemorate Christ's birth. If we celebrate it only in seeking to give pleasure to our children and one another, our offerings are diverted from the true object. We should bring our thank offerings to the Lord, laying our gifts at the feet of Him who has opened the treasures of heaven to us.
“The enemy plans that human minds and hearts shall be diverted from God and his cause, to praise and honor one another. God has been left out of the question, and positively dishonored. Christmas has been made a day of feasting of gluttony, of selfish indulgence. Now let every family consider this matter in all its bearings. Let the parents place it in all its wonderful significance before their children and friends, and say: “This year we will not expend money in presents upon ourselves, but we will honor and glorify God. We will testify of our gratitude to him who gave his Son to die as our sacrifice, that we might have the gift of eternal life.” Let us show that we appreciate this gift, and respond as far as it is in our power, with thank-offerings. Let us celebrate Christmas by remembering God, instead of remembering our friends and relatives with gifts which they do not need.” (Review and Herald, December 11, 1888).
- Ellen White mentions that Christmas celebrates Christ’s birth and calls us to remember the “true object” by bringing thank offerings to God.
- Feasting, gluttony, and selfish indulgence which is customary is not good.
- Ellen White calls us to “celebrate Christmas” by focussing on God and discourages giving relatives gifts they don’t need.
“Christmas day, precious reminder of the sacrifice made in man's behalf, should not be devoted to gluttony and self-indulgence, thus exalting the creature above the Creator.” (Review and Herald, December 11, 1879)
- Ellen White calls us Christmas day a “precious reminder” of Jesus’ sacrifice before going on to describe how we should treat this occasion.
This one is also from the Review and Herald from 1879 and gives some light on the heated topic of the Christmas tree that does not have any biblical origin at all, but rather pagan origins. Currently, Christmas trees are often set up year to year in the homes of those who celebrate Christmas and lavishly decorated with colourful lights, tinsel, and ornaments. Underneath the Christmas trees, you may find gifts for the family members of the household usually.
“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 the actions and the use which is made of the gifts placed upon the tree.
“The tree may be as tall and its branches as wide as shall best suit the occasion; but let its boughs be laden with the golden and silver fruit of your beneficence, and present this to Him as your Christmas gift. Let your donations be sanctified by prayer and let the fruit upon this consecrated tree be applied towards removing the debts from our houses of worship at Battle Creek, Michigan, and Oakland, California.
“A word to the wise is sufficient.” (Review and Herald, December 11, 1879).
- Having a Christmas tree in the churches is not a sin in itself. However, the way we do it will either make it like the world or unlike the world! The motive behind putting the tree in the church and how the gifts are used will determines whether it will be a sin or not.
- We should present Christmas gifts to the Lord such as donations towards removing debts for churches.
- This writing is in specific response to letters sent to her asking if having a Christmas tree was worldly or wrong.
The following excerpt is interesting. It’s from the Review and Herald, January 29, 1884 and recounts Ellen White’s visit to a college hall decorated with traditionally Christmas decorations around Christmas time. She is directly asked at this event whether she approved of what was taking place. Please read this one carefully to notice that although it has traditionally Christmas decorations, the set up was vastly different from what is popular now a days. Especially what is hanging on the tree.
“At the close of my long journey East, I reached my home in time to spend New Year's eve in Healdsburg. The college hall had been fitted up for a Sabbath school reunion. Cypress wreaths, autumn leaves, evergreens, and flowers were tastefully arranged, and a large bell of evergreens hung from the arched doorway at the entrance to the room. The tree was well loaded with donations, which ere to be used for the benefit of the poor and to help purchase a bell. Except in a few instances, the names of the donors were not given, but appropriate Bible texts and mottos were read as the gifts were taken down from the tree. On this occasion nothing was said or done that need burden the conscience of anyone.
"Some have said to me, 'Sister White, what do you think of this? Is it in accordance with our faith?' I answer them, 'It is with my faith.' In Healdsburg, San Francisco, and Oakland, there are many things to attract our children; large sums are expended every year on Christmas and New Year's in purchasing gifts for friends. These gifts are not generally satisfactory, for many receive presents that they do not need, when they would be glad to have some other article; some receive the same article from several different persons, and others receive nothing at all.” (Review and Herald, January 29, 1884).
- Ellen White visits a place that was decorated with what we would consider Christmas decorations: wreaths and an evergreen tree with things hung on it. She affirms that this practice was “with her faith.”
- The tree was not said to be decorated with ornaments, but rather donations, Bible texts, and mottos. Most of the donors’ names were not given. This strikes me as an act of humble giving that is not done in hope of being thanked. This goes against the tradition of Christmas gifts being given and the givers always being thanked or loudly acknowledged!
“Christmas and New Year celebrations can and should be held in behalf of those who are helpless. God is glorified when we give to help those who have large families to support.” (Manuscript 13, 1896)
- Here, Ellen White mentions the celebrations in specific and does not condemn, but rather encourages celebrations, but for those who are “helpless” such as people with large families to support. She cannot have been against Christmas and New Year gatherings as long as they are done in accordance with other principles such as a focus on God, benevolence, and a shunning of gluttony and indulgence!
The last quote presented here is very interesting for me. The day before Christmas, I shared a quote from The Desire of Ages about the great humiliation of Christ in taking human nature. It was met with some opposition from those that had a problem with this quote being shared around CHRISTMAS time. Of course, they had no problem with the quote itself! Only that it was shared so close to Christmas day, thus suggesting that we were embracing Christmas which to them was embracing paganism. However, reading the quote below of Ellen White’s own experience in choosing to speak on the first advent of Christ on Christmas day was interesting. I must also note that there is another instance where Ellen White spoke at Christmas time and she presented from the book of Colossians instead. There was another time when she was not having a gathering for the celebration of Christmas, but rather was engaged in fervent prayer with others before being given a vision. All these accounts can be found if you search “Christmas” at www.egwwritings.org the official resource for Ellen G. White’s writings.
“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.” (Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, January 1, 1892, par. 20)
- Ellen White is speaking in a hall with believers gathered on Christmas day. She writes that God blessed her with His Spirit as she chose to speak of Jesus’ birth. Many of those opposed to Christmas are bothered by any speaking of Jesus’ birth on Christmas day or in the Christmas season. However, here is an example of Ellen White herself believing herself to be blessed by the Spirit as she spoke about the culturally accepted theme associated with Christmas despite knowing that Christmas is not to be understood as Christ’s birth date.
So going back to my dilemma as a Christian and a Christian parent hoping to lead my children in the path of truth, I studied the topic of Christmas as presented in Ellen White’s writings. Do her experiences and writings suggest that I should shun Christmas completely? No. This is definitely not the conclusion I arrived at. She understood that God had hidden the true date of Christ’s birth. She wrote that December 25th had no divine sanctity. However, she called for the time to be used as a blessing. The worldly traditions of elaborate parties, indulgence, and gluttony were to be avoided. Vain gift-giving to those who don’t even need gifts was meaningless. In her time, and probably even more so in our time, Christmas is a time of copious spending. Christmas has been immensely commercialized!
Although clearly encouraging churches to have Christmas trees, it is vastly evident that the Christmas practices Ellen White encourages are vastly different from what is typically practiced! The difference is incredible! Christmas trees are encouraged to be placed in churches, not to be laden with glittery ornaments and atop mountains of gifts that aren’t a true blessing, but covered with gifts for God and for the needy! The focus of Christmas should be gratitude to Christ and our action should be giving liberally to the cause of God and for those that need help.
I try not to judge the intentions of people, however it seems that most people who believe in the inspired writings of Ellen G. White and promote the use of a Christmas tree using her quotes seem to have Christmas trees that don’t resemble what is described by her writings, but rather the popular culture. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Christmas tree, whether in a church or in a home, that obviously focussed on the goal of raising money for the Lord and to help the poor and needy, but I hope there are many of them out there. If I were to have a Christmas tree, I pray that God will guide me in doing it for the right purpose and in the right way!
My conclusion was that I should put Christmas in the right place. It is not a biblically-inspired holy day. It should not demand so much energy and attention as it normally does. Christmas time is a season where much good can be done. As a Christian, I should dispense of all falsehoods such as Santa Claus, elves watching children, or flying reindeer. I also refrain from using any terms such as the “magic of Christmas” as witchcraft and magic is clearly forbidden in the Bible. I should also watch carefully the spirit in which anything in this season is done. I could either be comfortable in selfish spending or trying to impress others. Or I could use this opportunity to give liberally for Lord in gratitude and help my fellow humans who are less fortunate than I.
As we near the end of the year, I should reflect on what I've done to contribute to the work of God and search my heart.
If you want to study more, here are some books or resources from Ellen G. White’s writings that can help:
- “Ellen G. White statements related to the observance of Christmas and holiday gifts” is a compilation of Ellen White’s quotes on the topic of Christmas and can be found online at https://m.egwwritings.org/en/book/757/info for free!
- Topical search on “Christmas” at www.egwwritings.org shows you her writings in their entirety! I loved reading her full publications and seeing how she went from point to point in her discussion on Christmas. It’s much more powerful than reading a compilation.
- “The Adventist Home” by Ellen G. White has a chapter (the 77th) of compiled quotes selected to guide the family in this matter. It can be found at https://m.egwwritings.org/en/book/128.2236#2236
Share your thoughts below! Has your thoughts towards Christmas evolved over time? Have you studied her writings on this topic before? Have you ever felt antagonistic towards Christmas and anything reminding you of Christmas like I have? Or perhaps you never even questioned the practices of Christmas?
Please keep all your comments respectful and please read the quotes before commenting please!
By Angie Decev