SDARM, Birthdays, Xmas & Joyless Life

The SDARM Grinch: Why the Bible does not Prohibit Birthdays, Christmas & other Celebrations of Life

The Reformists of the SDARM generally BELIEVE and TEACH:
- That birthdays are forms of pagan Baal worship – so can’t be celebrated. References to birthdays in the Bible are all negative.
- That Christmas is of pagan origin – so can’t be celebrated.
The Reformists are WRONG because:
- The Bible has no explicit prohibition against birthdays.  The fact that a number of evil biblical kings did bad things on their birthdays is no proof of anything.  The SDARM opposition to birthdays is class proof-texting out of context at its worse.
- The Bible actually speaks positively in some places of birthday-like celebrations.  For example, in Gen 21:8 that Abraham had a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned.  Similarly, Christ Himself received gifts from the Wisemen on His original birthday.  Jewish bar mitzvahs are another well-known birthday-like celebration.
- Whilst Ellen White was rightly concerned about the over-commercialization of holiday celebrations (an increasing problem even today), she didn’t support the sort of extreme view the SDARM advocate either.
- Ellen White celebrated her own birthday from time-to-time, including having a special dinner and receiving presents.
- Even though Christian might be of pagan origins, it can be used to spread the Gospel amongst otherwise increasingly secular societies.  Such opportunities should not be squandered, as Jesus’ parable about the ‘crafty servant’ in Luk 16:1-13 attest.
- Ellen White did not oppose Christmas – again, she merely wanted to safeguard against commercialization.     
- Ellen White similarly acknowledged Christmas’ opportunity to tell others about Jesus. 
- The SDARM simply make up man-made rules, which puts additional burdens on people that makes life all that bit more less enjoyable or happy.  Jesus actively condemned this sort of Pharisaic behavior in passages such as Matt 23:2-4,15.

Introduction: The Adventist Grinch
As discussed in other articles on this site, the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement (SDARM) exhibits a fanaticism and spirit of criticism that would put the Pharisees to shame.  As Helmut Kramer observes in SDA Reform Movement at page 19:
‘The members were much more concerned with externals than with the condition of the heart and a loving spirit toward their fellowman.’
Similarly, as noted by Vance Ferrel in The Truth About the Adventist Reform Church at page 16:
‘The Reform Church is more pharisaical than the Adventist Church. They stress works—dress, length of hair, diet—and they do it to the extreme… On one of the many occasions in which I spoke with their leaders, they personally admitted to me that they were more extreme than the Adventists.’
There is perhaps no greater illustration of this crushing spirit of disapproval than the SDARM prohibition on birthdays, Christmas and other joyful celebrations of life.  The leadership of the SDARM really do act like the notable fictional character “The Grinch” in the Dr Seuss tale ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas,’ who dresses up as Santa Claus to steal all the presents of the townspeople.  

Unhappy Birthday: The SDARM Prohibition on Birthdays

Arguments from Scripture
The scriptural arguments for the SDARM stance against birthdays are helpfully set out by Christine Godfrey in “Birthdays and Baal Worship”, from 'independent historic' Reformists publication Sabbath Sermons:
‘Only Three Birthday Parties Are Mentioned In the Scriptures
1. “And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants.” Genesis 40:20
2. “But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.” Matthew 14:6
3. “And his sons went and feasted [in their] houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And it was so, when the days of [their] feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings [according] to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.” Job 1:4-5.
Is there any significance attached to the fact that Jesus gave no example of celebrating his birthday? The only examples in scripture of Birthday celebrations are of two men that were directly opposed to God…
…The question needs to be asked, why wasn’t Job at his children’s birthday parties? He was making sacrifice and prayers for them during these times and ‘continually’ doing so. Why? Because in these occasions they may have sinned.  After scripture tells us this, tragedy comes upon them.
…The world through the media says birthdays are for indulging oneself in eating, drinking and partying, extra money, gifts, clothes, toys are given (or even asked for) on our birthdays. What we normally would not do, eat or drink at any other time seems okay to do just because we have reached another year. All sorts of exceptions are made because it is our birthday. Consciously or unconsciously we even seem to think that we are exempt from eating temperately on a birthday. Why does the scripture call us to put away the patterns of this world?
…When I turn away from pleasing self, the flesh definitely feels afflicted and it mourns. The laughter of frivolity that accompanies birthdays is enmity with God.’
There is some truth in the above statements.  Notably, birthdays have become captured to rampant and ultimately empty materialism.  However, scripture does not support the complete prohibition against recognising and celebrating birthdays.  In this sense, the SDARM is like poison – mostly pure but with a deadly drop of death mixed with it.
Nowhere is there a ‘Thus saith the Lord’ that the SDARM can rely on for their extremist view.  All the Reformists do is develop a whole theology based on pure speculation; thus, letting human conjecture override the plain and ordinary reading of the Bible.
The birthdays of evil ancient kings
The fact that a number of evil biblical kings did bad things on their birthdays is no proof of anything.  It is no more a proof than saying we should not drive cars because no good person in the Bible did. 
By the SDARM logic we shouldn’t be vegetarians because Hitler was a vegetarian.  All that we lean from the birthdays of Pharaoh and Herod is something we all already know – birthdays are almost universal cultural phenomena, including in the ancient world.
Job’s children and their birthday parties
Moreover, the mention in Job 1:4-5 of Job’s grown children engaged in a round birthday feasts is not a sign of some purported sin, but rather as a sign of their prosperity, on account of God’s blessing of Job and his family.   These birthday celebrations all occur at the beginning of the story, before the contest before God and Satan has even started.  This is not a sign of God’s displeasure but a sign of the good life which occurs with the blessing of God. As noted in “Matthew Henry’s Commentary” from Biblegatway about the passage:
They kept a circular feast at some certain times (Job 1:4); they went and feasted in their houses. It was a comfort to this good man:
1. To see his children grown up and settled in the world. All his sons were in houses of their own, probably married, and to each of them he had given a competent portion to set up with. Those that had been olive-plants round his table were removed to tables of their own.
2. To see them thrive in their affairs, and able to feast one another, as well as to feed themselves. Good parents desire, promote, and rejoice in, their children’s wealth and prosperity as their own.
3. To see them in health, no sickness in their houses, for that would have spoiled their feasting and turned it into mourning.
4. Especially to see them live in love, and unity, and mutual good affection, no jars or quarrels among them, no strangeness, no shyness one of another, no strait-handedness, but, though every one knew his own, they lived with as much freedom as if they had had all in common. It is comfortable to the hearts of parents, and comely in the eyes of all, to see brethren thus knit together. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is! Ps. 133:1.’
5. It added to his comfort to see the brothers so kind to their sisters, that they sent for them to feast with them; for they were so modest that they would not have gone if they had not been sent for. Those brothers that slight their sisters, care not for their company, and have no concern for their comfort, are ill-bred, ill-natured, and very unlike Job’s sons. It seems their feast was so sober and decent that their sisters were good company for them at it.
6. They feasted in their own houses, not in public houses, where they would be more exposed to temptations, and which were not so creditable. We do not find that Job himself feasted with them.’
One will note Job never condemns the feasting and it only lasts for a time.  Rather, his only concern is that his children may have gotten too carried away with themselves, which is a message about moderation, not absolute prohibition. Rather than telling his children to stop feasting, Job simply waits until the feasting ends before calling his children to matters of religion. As Solomon likewise observed in Ecc 3:12,13:
‘I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.’
Similarly, the fact that Job did not attend these birthday feasts does not prove he disapproved of them.  Again as noted by “Matthew Henry”:
‘We do not find that Job himself feasted with them. Doubtless they invited him, and he would have been the most welcome guest at any of their tables; nor was it from any sourness or moroseness of temper, or for want of natural affection, that he kept away, but he was old and dead to these things, like Barzillai (2 Sam. 19:35), and considered that the young people would be more free and pleasant if there were none but themselves. Yet he would not restrain his children from that diversion which he denied himself. Young people may be allowed a youthful liberty, provided they flee youthful lusts.’
Nowhere does the passage say Job’s children were sinning.  Moreover, to suggest they were sinning is to suggest that when they were later killed in Job 1:18,19 it was a result of their own sin, rather than being innocent victims in the Great Controversy between God and Satan mentioned in Job 1:9-12.  Did Job’s servants and livestock also do something to offend God then given they also soon died? 
The SDARM logic goes against the whole theological premise of Job, which is that sometimes bad things happen to good and innocent people because there is a greater cosmic struggle that we mere mortals cannot hope to understand.  Thus, the Reformist view on this subject in fact undermines the core Adventist teaching on the Great Controversy.
Birthday-like celebrations endorsed in the Bible
Contrary to the Reformist view, family feasts are mentioned with approval in the Bible.  Importantly, these feasts include celebrations of important birthday-like life stages.  For example, one reads in Gen 21:8 that Abraham had a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned.  Similarly, Christ Himself received gifts from the Wisemen on His original birthday. 
Jesus also celebrated something akin to a bar mitzvah into manhood at age 12, as recorded in Luke 2:41-49.  The fact that this event at age 12 is the only description of Jesus’ boyhood in the Bible should not be overlooked.
In a society where meat was extremely expensive, feasts in biblical times were rare occasions that occurred in conjunction with Temple sacrifice.  As such, feasting only occurred in moderation for but the richest in society. 
The Bible itself prescribes a number of Jewish feasts, which whilst no longer binding on Christians, is indicative that God does not expect His people to live glumly all year round without celebration.  We should never forget that these feasts were not only tolerated – they were mandated! 
In fact, it was even a part of tithing that a Jew travel to Jerusalem to enjoy the tithe of his gran, new wine and olive oil (Deut 14:23).  Sometimes this is considered the ‘second tithe’, and it illustrates that God held celebrations of thanksgiving as important as the first tithe to the Levites.
The lack of scriptural evidence for the SDARM position
Thus, the absence of conclusive evidence is not evidence at all, especially when someone makes leaps of logic in imposing biblical prohibitions that do not in fact exist.  Again, the SDARM are keen to cry ‘Thus saith the Lord’ – except when it no longer suits them. Their thinking is not so different from the Pharisees, who made impose burdens that did not actually exist in scripture into an art form the ability.  As Jesus recalled in Matt 23:2-4,15:
‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
…Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.’
Arguments from Spirit of Prophecy
In the absence of clear scriptural authority, the SDARM are left to their usual backup – Ellen White.  Forgetting for the moment that according to Sister White herself we should only ever rely on scripture for our doctrinal positions, there is nothing in her writings anyway to suggest she outright prohibited birthdays.  Her counsel as quoted by Christine Godfrey in “Birthdays and Baal Worship” from 'independent historic' Reformists publication Sabbath Sermons includes the following:
‘I have resolved from this time to make Christ first and last and best in everything. I will not sanction feasts made to celebrate birthday or marriage anniversaries, but will bend all my energies to lift up Jesus among the people. I will seek to impress upon the minds of my brethren and sisters the great necessity of preparation of heart, by confession and humiliation, to be accepted of God and acknowledged as his dear children. My heart has ached as I have seen men honored, while Jesus was neglected and almost forgotten,–liberal gifts for earthly friends, but poor and meager offerings for him to whom we owe our all.’ {ST, January 4, 1883 par. 8}
‘Now, when it comes to holidays, if a man has a penny or a shilling he must get on the cars and go and spend it somewhere. Now, we must understand we can make our own holidays, but we must not have a holiday because somebody is dead or somebody is alive or it is somebody’s birthday.’ 2SAT 128.2
‘How much better it would be to teach the children, upon their birthday, that they should go to God with an offering upon that day. Teach them that they ought to lay up something to bring to God on their birthday, as a thank offering for His mercies over them through the year, and so keep God in their memory.’ {21MR 225.1}
‘Our birthday anniversaries, and Christmas and Thanksgiving festivals, are too often devoted to selfish gratification, when the mind should be directed to the mercy and loving-kindness of God. God is displeased that His goodness, His constant care, His unceasing love, are not brought to mind on these anniversary occasions.’ –Review and Herald, Dec. 23, 1890. {CSW 143.2} (emphasis added)
The above passages do not in fact suggest holidays, including birthdays, should be prohibited outright.  Rather, they demonstrate that Mrs White believed:

  • celebrations, including birthdays, had become too commercialized; 
  • children should recognize their birthdays, and it should become a day of thanksgiving, but it should be a day of thanks to God rather than one of selfish self-indulgence;
  • there is no positive obligation to celebrate holidays;
  • we can make our own holidays, which is very different from saying there should be no holidays;
  • the problem with holidays is they are often too devoted to selfish gratification, which like Job is a question of moderation rather than absolute prohibition.
Moreover, whilst it appears Ellen White was not personally fussed about her own birthday, she did celebrate her birthday in a way:
‘I spent the first Sabbath after you left at Santa Rosa. The little house of worship was well filled. I had special freedom in speaking to the people and the blessing of the Lord rested upon me and those assembled. They all seemed to be so much encouraged. I was not where any parade could be made over my birthday and I am glad I was not. I think but little of these extra entertainments to celebrate birthdays.’ {4MR 40.2}
‘I had entirely forgotten that yesterday was my birthday, until I had returned from my ride just before dinner. Then I found that Sister King . . . invited to dinner, May White and her children, and Ella May and Dores Robinson. I had been so busy that I had not thought of its being my birthday, and I was, as Brother Starr used to say, plumb surprised to find such a large gathering, and two tables set in our dining room. We partook of a nicely prepared meal, after which we went into the parlor, and engaged in a season of prayer and sang a few hymns. The Lord came graciously near to us as we offered up hearty thanksgiving to God for His goodness and mercy to us all. . . .’ {2MR 252.4}
‘64th Birthday After the meeting we drove to the ship and bade our friends good-bye. My sixty-fourth birthday came on Thanksgiving Day, a few days after leaving Honolulu, and the friends at Honolulu presented me with a ten-dollar gold piece as a birthday present, and Mr. Kerr, though a non professor, gave me an upholstered rocking chair from his parlor set as a birthday present, because I happened to mention that it was an easy chair. It has been a great comfort to me on the voyage, when sitting on deck.’ {4MR 43.2} (emphasis added)
The above passages demonstrate Sister White:

  • avoided situations where others could parade her on her birthday, again perhaps for fear of it attributing to a cult of personality;
  • may have forgotten her birthday, but others didn’t, and her friends and family in effect through a surprise party-dinner for her, with a large gathering of people and nicely prepared meal;
  • did receive gifts on her birthday, including a ten-dollar gold piece and a rocking chair, which she graciously accepted.
Thus, Ellen White was certainly cautious of the self-indulgences of birthdays, and that sort of advice is probably more relevant today in our very consumer-driven world than ever before.  However, there is no evidence that Ellen White was attempting to impose some sort of fatwa against birthdays either.  With many things, the SDARM adopts the most extreme view possible, throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

The Reformist Grinch: The SDARM Have Cancelled Christmas

Arguments from Scripture
The scriptural arguments for the SDARM stance against Christmas are helpfully explained by Christine Godfrey in “Birthdays and Baal Worship”, from the 'independent historic' Reformists in Sabbath Sermons:
‘Christmas, or Christ-Mass, has become one of the leading holy days in the world today. But the 25th of December is not the birthday of Jesus – it is the birthday of Tammuz. The Bible says that the shepherds were with their flocks; and shepherds were never with their sheep on the hills in the winter Jesus must have been born at a warmer season.
Nobody really knows when he was born. The Bible does not reveal the date of His birth. Rather, it was the birthday of the pagan sun god; but the Church of Rome started calling it the birthday of Christ, the Son of the true God People have been taught to trample on God’s holy day, the Seventh-day Sabbath, but at the same time to reverence a day that is totally pagan in origin.
…My prayer is that I will not forget this new revelation of modern day Baal worship. My prayer is that I will not slip back into this unacceptable practice again and most of all that the LORD will give me grace to allow my flesh to be afflicted and mourn and weep: and let my laughter be turned to mourning and my joy to heaviness when others around me are feasting and celebrating. Also grace and mercy to forget those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’
Like birthdays, the SDARM makes some good and truthful points about Christmas.  There is indeed nothing in the Bible that tells us Christ was born on 25 December.  As observed by E. Livingstone in Oxford Concise Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford: 2006) at page 117:
‘Christmas is the commemoration of Christ’s nativity.  The earliest mention of it being celebrated on 25 Dec. is in the Philocalian Calendar, which represents Roman practice in 336.  The date was probably chose to oppose the pagan feast of the Natalis Solis Invicti by a celebration of the birth of the ‘Sun of Righteousness.’
However, given the New Testament does not specify the date, and given there was a pagan celebration of the ‘Sun of Righteousness’ on that date, it is probable the Early Christians wished to draw pagan minds on that day to Jesus Christ instead, the true ‘Sun of Righteousness’ as described in Mal 2:4:
‘But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.’
In this way, the Early Christians probably acted with the sort of innovation commended by Jesus Luke 16:1-13, in His unusual parable about the crafty servant:
‘Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.”’ (paraphrased from The Message) 
Another good analogy is the way Paul in Acts 17:22,23 used a pagan shrine to the ‘Unknown God’ to convince the pagan philosophers about the truth of God:
‘Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.’
Thus, whilst Christmas may admittedly have pagan origins, that is not to suggest Christians should simply condemn it out of a desire of self-righteous separation – that is Pharisaic thinking.  That is the sort of complacency that Jesus condemned, as it gives us an excuse to sit on our backsides rather than fulfil the Great Commission to spread the Gospel to the whole world in any innovative way we can think of.
Rather, the scriptures command us to use whatever is at our disposal to tell the world about Jesus.  Today, especially in the secular West and much like ancient pagan Rome, there are few opportunities as good as Christmas, which is about the one time of year ordinary people are willing to hear about Jesus.  The Reformists are willing to throw that practical opportunity away for some self-conceited idea of ritual purity.
Instead of simply opposing things, ultra-conservatives like the SDARM should try something positive for a change.  It life, it is far easier to condemn others for a job without doing the job oneself.  In the 100-years of its existence, the SDARM, with its Pharisaic isolation, has done little to fulfil the Great Commission to take the Gospel to the whole world – the numbers speak for themselves.

Arguments from Spirit of Prophecy
The arguments from SOP for the SDARM prohibition on Christmas are also helpfully set out by Christine Godfrey in “Birthdays and Baal Worship” in 'independent historic' Reformist publication Sabbath Sermons:
‘I see no objection to placing even in our churches a Christmas or New Year tree bearing fruit in gifts and offerings for the cause of God. We may thus take advantage of the occasion to turn the customary gifts of the season into the right channel. And such a holiday celebration is a useful lesson to our children, teaching them to bestow their gifts in a manner to honor their Redeemer. But when we devote our means and labor to feasting ourselves, we fail to render to God that honor which is his due.’ {ST, January 4, 1883 par. 7}
‘Now, why is this so? It is because there is so much selfishness. Jesus Christ identified Himself with His suffering poor, and when we do the works of benevolence we are doing it unto Christ. I want to know how many of us are doing this kind of work. How many will keep Christmas aright? The wealthy bring gifts to their friends but they are rich still. Then how can this be a sacrifice to them? Then what shall we do to please God? I will tell you. If you would keep this day as you should, you would call upon the needy poor, and if they are in want of anything, supply that want.’ {21MR 223.5}
If Christmas is kept at all, it should be kept in a way that will be in harmony with its significance. Christ should be remembered, his name honored; the old, old story of his love should be recounted. Instead of saying by our actions that we are putting Christ out of our minds and hearts, we should testify to men, to angels, and to God, that we remember our Redeemer, by following his example of self-sacrifice for others’ good. But the day chosen to honor Christ is devoted by the many to honoring and pleasing themselves. Appointed to keep the Saviour in remembrance, it is spent in causing him to be forgotten.’ {RH, December 9, 1890 par. 3}
The above passages do not in fact suggest holidays, such as Christmas, should be prohibited outright.  Rather, they demonstrate that Mrs White believed:

  • Christmas celebrations, including a Christmas tree with gifts, can be used as useful Christian lessons, much like Paul and the innovative Christians;
  • the issue was not Christmas per se but rather the consumerist manner by which it was being kept; and
  • keeping Christmas was not obligatory, but it can be kept if done in the right way.
Again, many Christians live up to these ideas of true Christmas-keeping by helping at out a homeless shelter on Christmas.  Other Churches, including many mainstream Adventist Churches, have a Christmas tree at their Church where children are asked to give a present, which then goes to the poor.  Still other Churches, including many notable Adventist Churches, put on massive nativity dramas, ‘Road to Bethlehem’, which see thousands of people from the local community visit the Church to hear the truth about Jesus. 
In these ways, many mainstream Adventist Churches are living up to the true ideals of Christmas.  Can the SDARM, living in its Grinch-like ivory tower say the same?  Is the SDARM like the Good Samaritan who is willing to get its hands dirty, or is it more like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, who simply walk by those in need for fear of ritual contamination?  

The Youth Exodus: The Consequences of a Joyless Life

So what are the consequences of a Grinch-like attitude to life, that crushes the joy out of life?  Well, apart from anything else, it usually results in the SDARM losing most of its young people.  As observed by Vance Ferrel in The Truth About the Adventist Reform Church at page 16:
‘They lose most of their young people. I know; for I have observed them for years and am well acquainted with many in the Reform Church and many who have left it.’
Given much of Sister White’s counsel about birthdays, Christmas and other holidays relates to the issue of child education, one could then simply look at the fruits of the SDARM approach.  That is, after all, the ultimate biblical test as to whether something is from God or Satan – judge them by their fruits.
One might even ask if Reformist leaders have the right to lead their congregations, given one of the primary criteria for an Elder of the Church is obedient children.  As observed in Tit 1:6:
‘An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.’(emphasis added)
Simply ask how many SDARM leaders can be said to be managing their own households well?  And if they can’t, then they have no right to lead in the Church, as observed by Paul in 1 Tim 3:2-6:
‘Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)’ (emphasis added)

A Season for Joy: Lessons from Zechariah

As outlined by Christine Godfrey above, the SDARM are very keen to quote Jam 4:9:
‘let my laughter be turned to mourning and my joy to heaviness when others around me are feasting and celebrating.’
However, does the Bible support such a sour look on all aspects of life?  Whilst there is certainly a season for seriousness and mourning, does not Solomon also teach in Ecc 3:1-8 there is also a season for joy, laughter and dancing – or do the SDARM selectively cherry pick the scriptures?  Would the Reformists replace all the Psalms of celebration and thanksgiving with just the Psalms of lament?  
Do the Reformists forget Jam 4:9 is devoted to the subject of repentance, which no one denies should not be taken seriously?  However, do the Reformists equally miss that at other times of life, as Ps 30:11 teaches us:
‘You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy’
Moreover, it seems that the SDARM could well do with a healthy dose of Zech 7:4-10:
‘Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? Are these not the words the Lord proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?’”And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’
And as a consequence of Israel’s false piety, and God’s recommitment to rebuild the Temple by His remnant, He commands that the previous fasts be replaced with happy festivals of joy:
‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”’
Like the ancient Israelites, it would seem the Reformist prohibition on celebrating birthdays, Christmas and other holidays has more to do with outward shows of peity than true inward spirituality.  As Jesus likewise said in Matt 6:16:
‘When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.’
If the SDARM believe celebrations have become too commercialised and don’t wish to celebrate them – then good on them and fair enough.  But is there any necessity of making such a song and dance about it (metaphorically, as Reformists don’t dance), drawing deliberate attention to their own supposed piety?  This author will let readers decide.

The Final Say:  Lessons from Jesus

As a final objective lesson on the subject of celebrations, feasts and holidays, we should consider the ultimate Truth – Jesus Christ.  What can we learn from Him?  Well, if we opened our eyes, and sought to live as Jesus would live today, rather than cherry-pick texts that justify our own depressing outlook on life, we might learn:

  • Jesus’ birth was celebrated, and He received gifts – even if we don’t know exactly when that date was (Matt 2:1-12).
  • The only account of Jesus’ boyhood was His visit to the Temple for the feast of Passover at the age of 12, a precursor (according to many Jews) of the modern bar mitzvah celebrating a boys entrance into manhood (Luke 2:41-52).
  • Jesus’ first recorded miracle was at a wedding feast in Cana (John 2:8-11), an apparently frivolous act if one thinks about it, compared with his other meaningful miracles of healing the sick or feeding the poor.
  • Jesus so loved to hang out at the parties of sinners, the Pharisees called Him a drunken and a glutton (Matt 11:19; Luk 7:34).
  • Jesus’ disciples were criticised for not fasting as John the Baptist’s disciples did.  Jesus made clear that there is indeed a time for fasting and mourning – but sometimes there is a time for joy and celebration (Matt 9:14; Mar 2:18).
  • When Mary Magdalene spends money on oil, which she applies with her hair to Jesus, the disciple Judas (in typical Reformist sour fashion) complains of its frivolity, which could have been better spent on the poor.  However, Jesus sees through the false self-righteousness, declaring that this gracious act be told whenever the Gospel is declared.  One will note that the same person who was fist to complain about Mary’s actions, citing supposed reasons of religiousness, was in fact the very person who was soon to betray Jesus (John 12:1-8).
  • One of the only ordinances introduced by Jesus to replace the Jewish feast days was the Lord’s Supper, occurring at a Passover Feast.  Unlike the modern Catholic Eucharist, the original Lord’s Supper was not the high liturgical ritual it is today but was a communal love feast.  This is why Paul was later concerned with inhospitable table fellowship between Jews and Gentiles (Gal 2:11-14), as well as disparities in food between rich and poor, and the behaviour of such eating (1 Cor 11:21).   
  • When Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son, the father (who represents God) reacts to his son’s return by instantly calling for a feast to celebrate (Luk 15:23).  It is only the ‘good’ son who (again in typical Reformist sour fashion) complains and chooses to isolate himself in self-righteous pity (Luk 15:29-32).
The primary concern of this author is the manner in which the SDARM transform Christianity from a religion of absolute joy into a crushing burden of criticism.  Whilst they claim to be upholding the Three Angel’s Message, it is arguable they undermine the First Angel, which is to spread the Gospel.  The way they live their lives, and the manner at which they place heavy yokes upon their families (especially children) and friends, is not consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  So the ultimate question to consider is –what would Jesus do?

1 comment:

  1. I tried to post a comment earlier but I dont what happend. Sorry you werent able to read it. But you are a lier. And God will deal with you.
    I feel so sorry for you and all those who you are misleading


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