by Nathan A. Miller, LC | Source: Catholic.net
Atheists have paid $20,000 to bash Christmas in NY. Their Billboard reads: “You KNOW It's a Myth: This Season Celebrate Reason.” Catholic League president Bill Donohue responded fast with the positive side: “You Know It's Real: This Season Celebrate Jesus.”
Years ago, they might have “taken this out back,” unsheathed battle axes, mounted horses and had it out. The clash of metal on metal would have clanged loudly. However, such a physical duel would not have “made as much noise” as the dueling billboards on the opposite ends of the Lincoln tunnel between New York and New Jersey. These modern axes—or should we say rather, axe and shield—will be viewed by commuters from now until Christmas.
What is NOT surprising, is that the Atheists have chosen Christmas—in New York—for their bashing spree, what else is not surprising, is that they didn’t put up a billboard bashing the Muslims for their desires to plant a Mosque at ground-zero (for obvious reasons).
On 29 November 2010, the New York Times grabbed the opportunity to explain—in the words of Mr. Silverman, the president of American Atheists—their two main objectives: 1) to get practicing non-believers to stop practicing, 2) and to give the religious right a taste of “what war on Christmas looks like.” These are his own words. So they DO intend war; and this billboard is their weapon.
The point? At least we are still free in this great country: freedom to bash, freedom to defend, freedom to report, freedom to drive by, even freedom to rent and sell billboards.
The problem? The misunderstanding that Atheists—and maybe even some of us Christians—have regarding Christmas.
The Atheist Billboard focuses on what you KNOW. … Hey, wait a minute, don’t we buy that? Don’t we KNOW about Christmas? Aren’t we Christians convinced that this is FACT? Isn’t that what it’s all about? We’ve got proof that Jesus was born and lived and died and rose again, don’t we? Well, yes we do have historical proof, and more types of proof, but that’s precisely it, KNOWING is not the point.
Let’s jump back to the very first Christmas.... The Blessed Virgin, according to our best sources, was very young when she conceived Jesus. 16 years old would be a high guess. Yet, she was well beyond the age of reason—old enough to take a journey by herself into the dangerous hill country to visit her cousin. Whatever the exact age, Mary was able to KNOW, and she did know a lot, but remember, knowing wasn’t the point of Christmas.
Many writers praise Mary because of the hardships she endured, but at the same time make it look like things were not clear. For example, here’s an excerpt from a Christmas poem:
Little children weren’t gleeful, dismal parents packed with speed
This concerned the mighty rulers; was a journey forced for greed
Then in Bethlehem a couple found a cave within the hills
And a crying Jewish infant came to life with zero frills
Past the stable’s destitution, Joe and Mary—homeward bound—
Carried just a helpless baby—not a scepter, not a crown
Sure, they’d met some rugged shepherds, and a star above did shine
But the world was oblivious, this peasant was divine
Maybe the world was oblivious, but Mary wasn’t. Her life, before and after birth, was packed full of proofs: miracles, signs and wonders. 22 Proofs are what I find in the Gospels. Wow! That’s a lot. Here’s a quick list:
• Mary was SINLESS.
• An ANGEL appeared to her.
• She became PREGNANT—without relations.
• ELISABETH, her cousin, conceived miraculously.
• Elisabeth’s husband, Zachariah, had seen an ANGEL too, became DUMB, and was CURED.
• Elisabeth KNEW Mary was the mother of God.
• Unborn John LEAPED in Elisabeth’s womb.
• Joseph was told in a DREAM to marry her.
• The law forced them to go to BETHLEHEM—the prophesied birthplace of the Messiah.
• Her baby was a BOY, like the Angel had promised.
• SHEPHERDS visited, who had seen angels.
• There was a miraculous STAR.
• 3 wise-men KNEW that the Messiah has been born.
• Simeon and Anna, prophets, proclaimed that this child was the Messiah.
• Herod—the king!—FEARED this newborn baby and tried to kill him.
• Joseph was told in a DREAM to leave the country.
• Joseph knew in a DREAM when it was safe to return.
• Herod was DEAD when they returned.
• And last but not least, the proof that tops them all, is that Jesus, just like her, was SINLESS. “No crying he makes.”
The Christmas countdown, from Mary’s perspective, is what we experience too. We don’t honor Mary because of her KNOWLEDGE, but because, based on knowledge, she freely took the step of faith. She was full-of-faith. She accepted the babe’s message. This is the essence of religious freedom—facts don’t force us to believe. God became man, but doesn’t force anyone to believe it, which is equal to saying “to accept him personally.”
Also worldly-wise, was another character of the Christmas scene—Herod. He also knew the facts. He had his own wise team study the stars, and even the scriptures, and he KNEW precisely where the Messiah would be born, “in Bethlehem of Judea.” Then he proceeded to try to murder the infant. His experience is also ours. The message of the baby in the manger touches every human being personally. You either love him, or you fear him.
Now let’s jump back to modern times.... We know so much, in fact, the entire modern world undergoes undeniable change every Christmas: postal jams, traffic jams, shopping jams, decorating jams, cooking jams, even the calendar is focused around the birth that split time in two. On New Year’s we celebrate 2011 years since this baby’s birth. Everything during the Christmas season points to a real historical event.
I wonder why the Atheists did choose Christianity during Christmas to bash. Maybe they continue to fear the Christ child. In all honesty, we should realize that the battle is not between two billboards. The axe—billboard-1—is meant to chop you, driver, on your casual way to buy tinsel and wrapping paper. Billboard-2 is more like the balsam which attempts to cure the wound as you continue on your casual way.
This Christmas, like any other, is surrounded by the freedom and knowledge of Christians and Atheists alike. However, while they, like Herod, stop at knowing Jesus is real and proceed to “wage war,” we don’t stop at knowing—we take the step of Faith, which leads to peace. Like they rightly propose, we WILL be celebrating reason this season, but, like Mary, we will also celebrate Jesus—the reason for the season. In so doing maybe we too can become balsam for a world desperately in need of the Savior’s message of “peace on earth to men of good will.”
Nathan A. Miller, LC studies for the priesthood in Rome. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.