December 13, 2005 Silver Spring, Maryland, United States …. [Mark A. Kellner/ANN Staff]

At a time of year when “peace on Earth” is supposed to be a dominant theme, pundits are proclaiming a “war on Christmas” in many parts of the world.

In North America, retailers — and even the White House — are drawing customer ire for wishing “Holiday Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas.” In Europe, Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims on Dec. 11 that, “In a consumer society, Christmas unfortunately suffers a sort of commercial contamination which risks modifying its authentic spirit,” according to media reports.

So what’s a Seventh-day Adventist Christian to do in the midst of two opposing views? Relax and enjoy the season, experts in church leadership, and one prominent lay observer, say, while remembering that religious liberty is for all.

“I think we should just go ahead and enjoy ourselves and be thankful that Jesus came,” said Dr. Roy Adams, an associate editor of the Adventist Review, the church’s official paper. Referring to Ellen White, one of the founding leaders of the church, Adams recalled that she said “especially where there are children, we couldn’t keep them from the excitement of Christmas. We should put Christ at the center.”

And while many Adventists happily participate in Christmas festivities, Dr. John McVay, dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, said it was important to remember the feelings of other neighbors who don’t celebrate.

“Our neighbors, seeing us as conservative religious types, would see us as pro-Christmas, and it might be somewhat surprising and instructive to use this as an opportunity to create a society where people feel free and welcome in their expressions of religious faith and commitment,” McVay told ANN from his office in Berrien Springs, Michigan. “For some religious people it might mean ‘Merry Christmas;’ for others it might mean saying ‘Happy Hanukkah.'”

McVay also emphasized the importance of the Gospel message during this season.

“Hopefully it also gives us an opportunity to talk about the value of Christ and the Christmas story to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and how important it is to bring those values of personal faith and community together,” he said.

Joe Wheeler is the author of 14 “Christmas in My Heart” books, each of which has become holiday best-sellers promoted by U.S.-based Christian organizations such as Focus on the Family, as well as a new book outlining the story of St. Nicholas. He’s also a Seventh-day Adventist Christian who told ANN from his Conifer, Colorado, home that 2005 has, for the first time, raised the issue of just what Christmas “is” amidst an onslaught of secularism.

“I don’t know why there’s this push [away from ‘Merry Christmas’], unless we are becoming so secularized … that even professed Christians are not practicing our religion the way we ought to be. Some of us don’t like to make waves. It is way past time for all of us to, where we’re convicted that something is not right, to dare to stand up and speak out,” Wheeler said.

“We Christian Adventists need to recognize that when Paul said don’t let the world squeeze you into its own mold, he’s talking about something that transcends time,” Wheeler added. “With the media in our face 24/7, we’re facing it like nothing we’ve seen before. It takes almost a superhuman effort to avoid this.”

Wheeler, whose work has placed him in contact with Christians from a wide spectrum of churches, says Adventists — whose denominational name reflects on the second coming of Jesus — should also contemplate His first Advent.

“We can say that during the Christmas season, however you perceive it to be, at least during the 24 days of the Advent, which we should be serious about, turn off the electronic intrusions into their lives,” Wheeler said. Believers should “read a story to our kids, read a scriptural story, play games, make our gifts instead of buying them, go visit the elderly, and do fun things with our families and rediscover them.”

In many parts of the world, such as Brazil and Australia, Adventists are among those who are sharing of their abundance with those less fortunate. According to Rajmund Dabrowski, communication director of the world church: “If you are at all in doubt about what to do during this season, you can always share with those in need.”

Copyright (c) 2005 by Adventist News Network

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