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Do Seventh-day Advenists Realize that they Got Christmas from the Sun-god?

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While no one in the Living Church of God celebrates Christmas, many Adventists (SDAs) now do.

While in LCG, we have long cited Jeremiah 10 as proof that Christmas trees are not appropriate for Christians, in the late 1800s Ellen White had a different view:

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 (Ellen White, Review and Herald, Dec. 11, 1879 per http://www.ellenwhite.org/criticg.htm 1/11/07).

Do Adventists know that Christmas is of non-Christian origin? Well certainly many of their leaders do.

For example, the late SDA scholar Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi wrote:

The Celebration of Christmas in Some Adventist Churches

The religious celebration of Christmas in Adventist churches is a recent development. I grew up in Rome, Italy, where we never had a Christmas tree in our home or church. My father worked regularly on Christmas day. Our family regarded Christmas as a Catholic festival, similar to the weekly Sunday, Easter Sunday, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on March 25, the Feast of Mary’s Assumption of August 15, All Saints Day on November 1, etc.

When I first came to the USA in 1960 as a seminary student at Andrews University, Christmas was primarily the Winter break. I do not recall much Christmas decorations and celebrations in the churches I visited during the four years I spent at the seminary from 1960 to 1964.

Gradually things have changed during the past 50 years. This is evident by the profusely illuminated and decorated front-end area of many Adventist churches at Christmas time. Some churches seem to compete with the rich decorations usually found in Greek Orthodox churches.

Frankly, I am not inspired by the elaborate Christmas decorations and celebration, because as a church historian I am aware of their pagan origin. Jesus was born in a humble manger. There were no fanciful decorations to celebrate His birth. It would be more in keeping with the setting of His birth, to keep the decorations simple, designed to help people catch the real spirit of Christ’s humble birth.

It was the celebration of the birth of the Sun-god in ancient Rome that was accompanied by a profusion of lights and torches and the decoration of trees. To facilitate the acceptance of the Christian faith by the pagan masses, the Church of Rome found it expedient to make not only the Day of the Sun the weekly celebration of Christ’s resurrection, but also the Birth Day of the Invincible Sun-God on December 25, the annual celebration of Christ’s birth…

The term “Christmas” is not found in the Bible. It derives from “Christ + Mass,” that is, from the Mass Catholics celebrate in honor of Christ’s birth on the night of December 24. Surprisingly, there is no mention in the New Testament of any the celebration of the anniversary of the birth of Christ. The Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ birth are very brief, consisting only of few verses. (Bacchiocchi S. Day and Meaning of Christmas. ENDTIME ISSUES NEWSLETTER No. 161, December 2006).

While Dr. Bacchiocchi appears to be against it, Ellen White and her followers appear to have decided that this compromise with sun-worshipers is acceptable.

Here is one comment from The Catholic Encyclopedia:

It is true that the believers in Mithras also observed Sunday as well as Christmas.(Herbermann, Charles, and Georg Grupp. Constantine the Great. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 1 Sept. 2008 <www.newadvent.org/cathen/04295c.htm>)

An article announcing Dr. Bacchiocchi’s death also had this regarding his position on Christmas:

The adoption of the 25th of December for the celebration of Christmas is perhaps the most explicit example of sun worship’s influence on the Christian liturgical calendar,” Bacchiocchi wrote. “It is a known fact that the pagan feast of the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti – the birthday of the Invincible Sun, was held on that date.” (Expert on Bible, Sabbath dies at 70 Samuele Bacchiocchi best known for explaining shift toward Sunday worship. World Net Daily. Posted: December 21, 2008 12:49 pm Eastern. http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=84204)

And since Mithras day was Sunday and his birthday was December 25th, why would any SDA find Christmas acceptable? (Those interested in learning more about Mithratic teachings and their adoption amongst those who profess Christ should read the article Do You Practice Mithraism?)

Here is some of what the last newsletter from Dr. Bacchiocchi stated about Christmas:

THE CELEBRATION OF CHRIST’S BIRTH

The celebration of Christ’s birth poses two problems: the date and the manner of the celebration. Regarding the date of Christ’s birth, we shall shortly see that the adoption of the date of December 25th by the Western Church to commemorate Christ’s birth was influenced by the pagan celebration of the return of the sun after the winter solstice.

Several scholarly studies suggests that the Feast of Tabernacles in September/October provides a much more accurate Biblical timing and typology for celebrating Christ’s birth than the pagan dating of December 25th. The latter date is not only removed from the actual time of Christ’s birth, but also is derived from the pagan celebration of the return of the sun after the winter solstice…

The good news of the date of Christ’s birth, is not a festival, with its gifts, parties, fun, feasting, yule log, and lighted Christmas tree–for these are but vestiges of a pagan culture that knows nothing of the true God. The good news of Christ’s birth centers around a person–God’s unspeakable gift, a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.

The Celebration of Christ’s Birth in Some Adventist Churches

Several fellow believers asked me to comment specifically on the celebration of Christ’s Birth in some Adventist churches. It is not uncommon for our larger Adventist churches to have a Christmas eve religious service. Somebody asked me the question: “Could you explain to me why some Adventist churches have special Christmas’ eve services while others do not?”

Frankly, I do not understand why some Adventist churches today are adopting the popular practice of an evening church service on December 24. Perhaps they may not be aware that they are imitating the Catholic “Christ—Mass” celebrated at midnight of December 24. They may also ignore the pagan origin of the date of Christ’s birth, which will discussed later. Most likely, for these churches it may be just a matter of cultural conformity, namely, the desire to imitate the impressive Christmas eve services held in Catholic and Protestant churches.

The religious celebration of Christmas in Adventist churches is a recent development…Gradually things have changed during the past 50 years. This is evident by the profusely illuminated and decorated front-end area of many Adventist churches at Christmas time. Some churches seem to compete with the rich decorations usually found in Greek Orthodox churches.

Personally I am not inspired by the elaborate Christmas decorations and celebration, because as a church historian I am aware of their pagan origin…

It was the celebration of the birth of the Sun-god in ancient Rome that was accompanied by a profusion of lights and torches and the decoration of trees. To facilitate the acceptance of the Christian faith by the pagan masses, the Church of Rome found it expedient to make not only the Day of the Sun the weekly celebration of Christ’s resurrection, but also the Birth Day of the Invincible Sun-God on December 25, the annual celebration of Christ’s birth…

THE DATE OF CHRIST’S BIRTH

Surprisingly, there is no mention in the New Testament of any the celebration of the anniversary of Christ’s birth. The Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ birth are very brief, consisting only of few verses found only in Matthew 1:16-24 and Luke 2:1-20). By contrast, the accounts of what is known as “The Passion Week,” are lengthier, taking several chapters…

The Early Christians commemorated annually Christ’s death and resurrection at Passover, but we have no clear indications of an annual celebration of Christ’s birth. A major controversy erupted in the latter part of the second century over the Passover date, but the date of Christ’s birth did not become an issue until sometimes in the fourth century. At that time the dispute centered primarily over two dates for Christ’s birth: December 25 promoted by the Church of Rome and January 6, known as the Epiphany, observed by the Eastern churches. “Both these days,” as Oscar Cullmann points out, “were pagan festivals whose meaning provided a starting point for the specifically Christian conception of Christmas.”

Most Likely Christ Was Born toward the End of September or the Beginning of October

It is a recognized fact that the adoption of the date of December 25th by the Western Church to commemorate Christ’s birth was influenced by the pagan celebration of the return of the sun after the winter solstice. More will be said later about the factors which influenced the adoption of this date. At this juncture it is important to note that the date of December 25 is totally devoid of Biblical meaning and is grossly inaccurate as far as the actual time of Christ’s birth.

If, as it is generally agreed, Christ’s ministry began when He was about thirty years of age (Luke 3:23) and lasted three and one-half years until His death at Passover (March/April), then by backtracking we arrive at the months of September/October, rather than to December 25.2 Indirect support for a September/October dating of Christ’s birth is provided also by the fact that from November to February shepherds did not watch their flocks at night in the fields. They brought them into a protective corral called a “sheepfold.” Hence, December 25 is a most unlikely date for the birth of Christ.3

The most likely date of Christ’s birth is in the latter part of September or the beginning of October. This date corresponds to the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, known also as the Feast of Booths. This feast was the last and most important pilgrimage of the year for the Jews. The overcrowded conditions at the time of Christ’s birth (“there was no place for them in the inn”—Luke 2:7) could be related not only to the census taken by the Romans at that time, but also to the many pilgrims that overrun the area especially during the Feast of Tabernacles.

Bethlehem is only four miles from Jerusalem. “The Romans,” notes Barney Kasdan, “were known to take their censuses according to the prevailing custom of the occupied territories. Hence, in the case of Israel, they would opt to have the people report to their provinces at a time that would be convenient for them. There is no apparent logic to calling the census in the middle of winter. The more logical time of taxation would be after the harvest, in the fall,”4 when people had in their hands the revenue of their harvest.

Support for the belief that Christ was born at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, which occurs in late September or early October, is provided by the Messianic themes of the Feast of Tabernacles…

Ideal Time for the Birth of Jesus

The Feast of Tabernacles was the ideal time for the birth of Jesus because it was called “the season of our joy.” The emphasis on the joyfulness of the feast is found in the instructions given in Deuteronomy 16:13-14: “You shall keep the feast of booths seven days, when you make your ingathering from your threshing floor and your wine press. You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your manservant and your maidservant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns.”

A final interesting sideline supporting the possibility that Christ was born at the very time of the Feast of Tabernacles, is the reference to the wise men that came from the East to visit Christ (Matt 2:1). The land of the East is most likely Babylon, where many Jews still lived at the time of Christ’s birth. Only a remnant of the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile to Palestine during the Persian period. The wise men, most likely, were rabbis known in Hebrew as chakamin, which means wise men.

We are told that the wise men made their journey from the East to Bethlehem because they had seen “the star in the East” (Matt 2:1). Watching the stars was associated especially with the Feast of Tabernacles. In fact, the roof of the booth was built with leafy branches carefully spaced so that they would screen out the sunlight without blocking the visibility of the stars. The people watched for the stars at night during the feast because of the prophecy “a star shall come out of Jacob” (Num 24:17). It is possible that it was during the Feast of Tabernacles, the special season of star watching, that the wise men saw the Messianic star and “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matt 2:10).

In the light of the foregoing considerations, most likely Christ’s birth coincided with the Feast of Tabernacles. Being the feast of thanksgiving for God’s willingness to protect His people with the tabernacle of His presence during the wilderness sojourning, it could serve fittingly to celebrate Christ’s willingness to become a human being and pitch His tent among us in order to become our Savior.

The implications of this conclusion are self-evident. The Feast of Tabernacles in late September/October provides Christians today with much more accurate Biblical timing and typology for celebrating Christ’s birth, than the pagan dating of December 25th. The latter date not only is removed from the actual time of Christ’s birth, but is also derived from the pagan celebration of the return of the sun after the winter solstice. Why celebrate the birth of Jesus at the wrong time of December 25th,—a date derived from pagan sun-worship—when the Bible provides us with a more appropriate timing and typology for commemorating such an important event?…

The Pagan Origin of Date of Christmas

The adoption of the 25th of December for the celebration of Christmas is perhaps the most explicit example of Sun-worship’s influence on the Christian liturgical calendar. It is a known fact that the pagan feast of the dies natalis Solis Invicti—the birthday of the Invincible Sun, was held on that date…

Rome and the Origin of Sunday, Easter Sunday and Christmas

Let us note that the Church of Rome pioneered not only the observance of Sunday and Easter-Sunday, but also the new date of December 25 for the celebration of Christ’s birth. In fact the first explicit indication that on the 25th of December Christians celebrated Christ’s birthday, is found in a Roman document known as Chronograph of 354 (a calendar attributed to Fuzious Dionysius Philocalus), where it says: “VIII Kal. Jan. natus Christus in Betleem Judaeae—On the eighth calends of January [i.e., December 25th] Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea.”

(Bacchiocchi S. (ENDTIME ISSUES NEWSLETTER No. 218 “The Meaning, Celebration, and Date of Christmas”. November 2008)

The idea of a December 25th Christmas is pagan, the SDAs originally did not observe it, we in the Living Church of God do not observe it, and it should not be observed by true Christians.

Here is Southern California, one of the reasons that my wife and I decided not to have our oldest son attend a school ran by SDAs was because there was a Christmas tree in every SDA classroom we had visited. Hence, it seemed to us that many SDAs were simply too into Christmas from a non-biblical perspective.

Some articles of related interest may include:

SDA/LCG Differences: Two Horned Beast of Revelation and 666 The Living Church of God is NOT part of the Seventh-day Adventists. This article explains two prophetic differences, the trinity, differences in approaching doctrine, including Ellen White. Did Ellen White make prophetic errors? Did Ellen White make false prophecies?
Do You Practice Mithraism? Many practices and doctrines that mainstream so-called Christian groups have are the same or similar to those of the sun-god Mithras. Do you follow Mithraism combined with the Bible or original Christianity?
Was Jesus Born in the Grotto of the Nativity? Was Jesus born in a below ground cave? Was Jesus born below the “Church of the Nativity”? Were the wise men there?
What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Christmas and the Holy Days? Do you know what the Catholic Church says were the original Christian holy days? Was Christmas among them?

Comments

  • xexon 3 years ago

    All religions are composed of bits and pieces of the religons that came before them. Not a one of them is anything new.

    Maybe we should send everybody a copy of Zeitgeist for Christmas?

    x

  • rgirard 3 years ago

    Zeitgeist is full of errors

    Christmas is definitely more cultural than Christian. Did you notice any Christian cars in that SDA school parking lot? They probably drive the same cars pagans drive, but let's hope the music they listen to while driving, and how they drive, is greatly influenced by the love of Christ ... just like their celebration of Christmas.

  • Jesse Sellers (Columbia SC Biblical Studies Examiner) 3 years ago

    While you're busy NOT celebrating Christmas, please explain why the angels at Jesus's birth DID celebrate it! Not only did they celebrate His birth, they encouraged the shepherds to do so as well. In fact, the very stars apparently encouraged the celebration of His birth, leading the magi to celebrate His birth as well. Incidentally, the Scriptures aren't critical of the magi, shepherds, or angels for celebrating His birth, are they?

  • Profile picture of Bob Thiel
    Bob Thiel 3 years ago

    While God had the angels announce Jesus' birth, no early Christians ever celebrated it. Thus, they did not believe that they should. This should be a message to those who wish to interpret Christianity in the 21st century differently from those who did in the 1st and 2nd centuries. And of course, no one used Christmas trees, wreaths, etc.

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