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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Celebrating Christmas

              I guess it’s fair to ask the question: Why does anyone celebrate Christmas anymore? After all, there are an awful lot of folks trying to rid the United States of its Christian history and roots.

So, why then celebrate Christmas at all? It would seem logical to cease such a celebration since our President has declared unequivocally that the United States is no longer a Christian nation. Is he right? I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing Mr. Obama has miscalculated the power and influence of God’s Holy Spirit that is still very much at work in the hearts and lives of countless Americans all across the “fruited plain.” There is no single person, organization, religious group, or government that will ever be able to thwart the plans of God.

Then there are the atheists. They have rallied in recent years and are flexing some political and organizational muscle. A coalition of eight atheist groups ran a campaign of ads this past October on the New York subway system which transports more than five million passengers per day. The ads appeal directly to people who do not consider themselves to be religious or affiliated with any specific religious organization.

During this Christmas season the American Atheists are running electric billboard ads in New York’s Times Square that asks the question, “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody.” There has been a running debate in the media over the question of whether or not there is a “War on Christmas.” Again, I don’t know for sure, but it certainly seems to be more targeted and aggressive than previous years. Does it bother me? No, not really. You see, God does not force anyone to believe in him. It is a matter of choice.

That brings up an important point about atheists. They often profess not to believe in God. This is not a basic tenet of atheism. For a person to state that they do not believe in a god leaves open the possibility that there is a god to believe in. An atheist, by strict definition, believes there is no god to believe in, even if a person wanted to believe in a god. The word “atheist” is a Greek word that literally means “no god.”  What atheists should say is, “There is no god to believe in.”

So then, back to whether we should celebrate Christmas. The president of American Atheists, David Silverman, claims that Christmas, celebrated on December 25, is really a Winter Solstice celebration and has been around longer than the Christian faith. I would agree with him. However, he than advises, “Don’t go to church.” Here’s where I disagree. If you read my article two weeks ago, “Is Christmas Christian?” you will recall that I wrote about the various influences on the celebration of Christmas, and that regardless of what day Jesus was actually born is of no matter. What Christians celebrate is his birth and his purpose for coming to this planet we call earth. Not only is it unlikely that December 25 is the birth date of Jesus, it has been fairly safely projected that he was born between 3 and 7 years earlier than originally determined. That would mean instead of my being born in the year 1948, I would actually have been born between 1951-1955. Weird! But so what? I’m here nonetheless. And just as Jesus was born about 2000 years ago, the exact day and year are of no consequence. He was here in the flesh.

Christian religious groups have chosen to enter into the billboard wars with the atheists. Here are some of those replies: “To all our atheist friends — Thank God you’re wrong.” and “You Know It’s Real. This Season Celebrate Jesus.”

And that’s the reason I celebrate Christmas – It’s REAL. Knowing Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior means my life has been changed – transformed – made new. That happened because of an encounter I had with Jesus on September 8, 1972, and my answer to him then was “Yes!” And my answer to him today is still “Yes!”

My son-in-law, Ken, is a sheet metal worker and a master in his craft. My wife asked him to make a sign with the words “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” He finished it the other night and mounted it on top of our church marquee. He boxed in the sign so that the letters that he cut out would have lights inside to shine so as to illuminate the letters. It has become an attraction on Main Street with people stopping to capture its beauty in pictures.

Because of my own experience in knowing Jesus I could not for one minute discount the stories of countless millions of people over the past 20 centuries who have also had a personal encounter with him, whose lives have been changed by this God-Man Jesus.

When I celebrate Christmas, I don’t just celebrate Jesus being born in a manger two thousand years ago. I also celebrate his being born in my heart 41 years ago.
And that, my friends, is worth celebrating!

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