This past week, a secular group secured an ad in New York’s Times Square. The digital billboard included the image to the right. The activist group responsible for this advertisement, American Atheists, released a statement in conjunction with the billboard. It said, “This season is a great time of year for a hundred reasons — none of them having to do with religion. This year, start a new tradition: Don’t go to church. You hate it, it’s boring; you probably only go because you feel guilty or obligated. Instead, spend more time with your family and friends — or volunteer. There are better uses of your time and money.”
As I thought about the image and the statement, I find that I am far more dumfounded than offended. First of all, there aren’t any atheist activists erecting billboard to mock the Muslim celebration of Ramadan or the Hindu celebration of Krishna Janmashtami. It seems that the celebration of anything Christian is far more offensive to secularists than any other religious observance. I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to mock the Incarnation of Jesus, you should be just as quick to mock Muhammad and Krishna. The Apostle Peter said that we should expect this sort of thing, “First, be aware of this: Scoffers will come in the last days to scoff.” Mockers mocking, scoffers scoffing, merry Christmas.
I’m also dumfounded by the attitude of the atheist group about the church. Boring, obligated? This is coming from a group of people who have likely never darkened the doors of a loving, caring, worshipping fellowship of believers. When worship becomes boring and our participation becomes forced, we’ve got major problems. Then you have their suggestion of church alternatives, “Spend more time with family and friends – or volunteer.” That sounds just like a vibrant body of believers sharing life together and impacting their community together. Sounds to me like this atheist group needs to find an exciting, bible-believing church to visit and connect to a small-group Bible study!
The reality is that there are people in the world who believe they can steal the joy of Christmas. What they miss, however, is that the joy of Christmas is not found in the images of the season. Joy is not tied to our evergreen trees or our twinkling lights or all of the gifts we have set our hearts on. Joy is tied to Jesus, plain and simple. Joy is found in the fact that God Almighty saw fit to put on flesh. Joy is found in the angel’s proclamation to the shepherds, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.”
Instead of taking offense that there are people out there who mock the message about Christ, let us take every opportunity to share with others the joy that we have found in Christ. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come; let earth receive her King” is a message for all people, whether they like it or not!