Enjoying Christmas

It’s Boxing Day—seven thirty in the morning. I am sitting in the living room and just made myself a cup of tea. Everything is quiet. The Christmas tree and other Christmas lights create extra atmosphere in the room. A great background for writing a blog.

We have enjoyed Christmas so far, and expect that this 26th of December will also be a nice day. Unfortunately, in the Netherlands, the “second Christmas Day” (as we call it) is also increasingly assumed the character of ‘boxing day’, on which the religious character of Christmas is pretty much pushed into the background.

We started on the path to Christmas with an interdenominational Sing-In on December 21 in the interconfessional church building in the center of our village. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and were happily surprised that the mayor read the Christmas gospel. On Christmas Eve the Advent congregation in Harderwijk had a beautiful Christmas service, which was entirely organized by the teenagers of the local church. Chapeau! On Christmas Day we enjoyed a beautiful concert of the West German Broadcasting Company (WDR) on TV and, of course. we did not want to miss the message of the Pope and his Urbi et Orbi blessing, as well as the speech of the Dutch king. I was happy to see on Facebook a short Christmas message from Pastor Ted Wilson, the president of the Adventist World Church.

I realize that in our denomination the church leaders often have to maneuver very carefully around Christmas. After all, there are quite a few fellow-believers who are opposed to Christmas celebrations. It is, they say, a pagan feast and Bible-believing Christians should have nothing to do with it. It struck me that the message of Pastor Wilson on Facebook, in addition to many positive reactions, also received a lot of negative comments. Many of these comments went something like this: Shame on the president of our church that he sends such a wrong signal and leads the church down the wrong path.

Is Christmas of dubious origin? Yes, it certainly is. But is that a problem? In and around the Christian church many elements can be traced back to non-Christian traditions and customs. But if those things have been ‘christianized’, and have been given a totally new content, it doesn’t really matter where those customs originated. One could even argue that one of the characteristic aspects of the Adventist church service also has a very dubious origin. The Sabbath School is not an Adventist invention but was copied from the Sunday School, as it developed in various Protestant churches in nineteenth century America. Sunday school was, of course, linked to the Sunday and the celebration of that day was associated with the worship of the sun god. Is this a reason to abolish the sabbath school?

I was alerted to the example of the dubious origin of the Sabbath School in an extremely informative article that I found on the website of Adventist Today. Here is the link: https://atoday.org/paganisms-gift-to-us/

It is curious that many conservative church members object to celebrating Christmas. They generally appreciate Ellen White’s opinion, but when it comes to Christmas, they set her positive statements about celebrating Christmas aside. For her, it was especially important that we celebrate Christmas in a way that echoes, loudly and clearly, the message of the feast, namely that the Savior was born. Yet, for her the social aspects were not taboo either. For example, her son Willy even seems at least once to have dressed up as Santa Claus, with his mother’s approval. (See: http://www.truthorfables.com/EGW_Santa.htm)

I’m sorry so many of my fellow believers don’t enjoy Christmas. Of course, the message of Christmas must be central to everything we do on and around Christmas. And that message should not only be in our minds as we enjoy the Christmas tree, the the candle lights and the beautiful carols. It is the message that we must take with us, into the last week of the year and into 2020.