Is God "Pleased" by Christmas Trees?

By Brother Anderson


Mrs. White established a practice in the late 1870s of having a Christmas tree placed in every Adventist church, upon which people could place their offerings. This practice is continued in many SDA churches today.
"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."1
Whether or not God was "well pleased" by this practice can be debated, but there is no doubt that church officials were "well pleased" as the Christmas dollars rolled into the treasury. Mrs. White continued to support the practice in the 1880s:
"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?"2

Analysis

The Origin of the Christmas Tree

Far be it from us to discourage the celebration of the Savior's birth into this world. However, it must be pointed out that a double-standard was practiced here. Hundreds of years prior to Christ's birth pagans set up trees in their homes to honor their pagan deities:

"The Christmas tree, now so common among us, was equally common in pagan Rome and Egypt. In Egypt that tree was the palm tree; in Rome it was the fir; the palm tree denoting the Pagan Messiah as Baal-Tamar, the fir referring to him as Baal-Berith. The mother of Adonis, the Sun-God and great mediatorial divinity, was mystically said to have been changed into a tree, and when in that state to have brought forth her divine son."3
The practice of setting up evergreen trees on December 25 has absolutely no connection to anything at all relating to Christ's birth, but was simply one of the many pagan traditions adopted by the Christian church after the death of the apostles.
"The Christmas tree...symbolized the new-born God as Baal-Berith, 'Lord of the Covenant,' and thus shadowed forth the perpetuity and everlasting nature of his power, now that after having fallen before his enemies, he has risen triumphant over them all. Therefore, the 25th of December, the day that was observed at Rome as the day when the victorious god appeared on earth, was held as the Natalis invicti solis, 'The birth-day of the Unconquerable Sun.'"4

A Double-Standard on Pagan Symbols?

Ellen White soundly condemned the Catholic church for adopting the use of pagan symbols:
"To secure converts, the exalted standard of the Christian faith was lowered, and as the result 'a pagan flood, flowing into the church, carried with it its customs, practices, and idols.'"5

"Although these worshipers of idols professed to be converted, they brought their idolatry with them into the church, only changing the objects of their worship to images of saints, and even of Christ and of Mary His mother. As the followers of Christ gradually united with them, the Christian religion became corrupted and the church lost its purity and power."6

"Many heathen nations claimed that their images were mere figures or symbols by which the Deity was worshiped, but God has declared such worship to be sin."7

Even today, putting up the sign of the cross in an SDA church, or on its steeple is condemned by some. In one SDA church I attended I remember hearing of a debate that erupted as the church decided whether or not to purchase decorative lights for the church sanctuary which had crosses engraved on them! The early Adventists looked down upon using the cross as a symbol:
"The badge of Christianity is not an outward sign, not the wearing of a cross..."8
Here we have a prophet that blasted Rome for adopting pagan practices, and shunned pagan symbols--even the symbol of the cross. And yet, ironically, that same prophet said God would be "well pleased" to have an evergreen standing in their church sanctuaries on the same December 25th date upon which the heathen Romans put up evergreen trees in honor of Baal-Berith!

Is God really "pleased" to have pagan symbols in His church?

It seems as if the early Adventists were willing to sacrifice their high ideals about pagan symbology when they realized the tree could be used as a money-making device. Does placing "offerings for God" upon a Christmas tree sanctify this pagan symbol and make it acceptable in God's sight? Paul writes:
"What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? ...And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? ...Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you."9

Perhaps Ellen White stated it best when she wrote...

"He [Satan] has deceived them, benumbed their sensibilities, and planted his hellish banner right in their midst, and they are so completely deceived that they know not that it is he. ... They are idolaters, and are worse, far worse, in the sight of God than the heathen, graven-image worshipers who have no knowledge of a better way."10

NOTES

1. Ellen White, Review and Herald, Dec. 11, 1879.

2. Ellen White, Review and Herald, Dec. 9, 1884.

3. Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, p. 97.

4. Ibid., p. 98.

5. Ellen White, Great Controversy, p. 384.

6. Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 211.

7. Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 306.

8. Ellen White, Signs of the Times, Aug. 12, 1908.

9. 2 Cor. 6:14-17.

10. Ellen White, Testimonies, Vol. 2, p. 440.