Is Jesus Really the ‘Reason for the Season’?
by Greg West
I love Christmas, I really do. Even despite the current cultural trend to make it a secular holiday, you know, so as not to offend anyone—because after all, the right to not be offended is right there in the U.S. Constitution—I think it comes somewhere after the phrase, ‘the separation of church and state’. Okay, yes, I’m being sarcastic, but the truth is that more than a few people think that one or both of those are actually in there. I once had a militant atheist tell me that his right not to be offended was guaranteed by the constitution, to which I responded that he might want to actually read the constitution before making claims about what is says or what rights it guarantees. The response I got to that was something akin to the sound of crickets chirping, which I had hoped to mean that he actually was going to read it—or at least the Bill of Rights portion, and then get back to me. I’m still waiting on that one.
This morning I became curious as to the question of, “If atheists take part in celebrating Christmas, then what reason do they have for doing so?” Using that all-knowing search tool known as Google, I simply googled the phrase, “Why do atheists celebrate Christmas?” What I discovered was that this question seems to perplex atheists as much as it does me—and while their answers varied, the consensus seems that for an atheist to have any meaningful reason to celebrate Christmas, they must make their own meaning—hhhmmm… sounds familiar does it not?—Because that’s what they have to do for just about everything—create their own meaning because there is no ultimate meaning in life for the atheist, and the atheist who is consistent in their worldview will readily admit that. I’ve never had one admit that to me personally, but I do know of a handful that have publically admitted to it. One example is atheist and biologist Dr. William Provine who stated:
“Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.” (Provine, W.B., Origins Research 16(1), p.9, 1994)
Thank you, Dr. Provine. Thank you for being consistent in your worldview. I find that refreshing as I find that most atheists are not—at least the ones I talk to anyway.
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Now that we’ve covered that, let’s move on from why an atheist may or may not celebrate Christmas, and consider other reasons for celebrating Christmas. The phrase, “Jesus is the reason for the season” is a popular one among Christians, and one that even many unbelievers can agree with, but what reason does an unbeliever have to celebrate Jesus as the ‘”reason for the season”? Not much. One skeptic friend of mine believes that Jesus was just a man, but he was a great man and his life deserves to be celebrated—but like the atheists, my friend is merely creating her own meaning in Christmas.
Take away Jesus’ divinity and what do you have? Not much—other than some guy who wanted us all to love each other, even our enemies. Well, as the Church Lady would say, “How nice”. At best, that might put Jesus up there with Martin Luther King, Jr., but then again, Jesus didn’t lead a civil rights movement did he? So really, if Jesus was just a guy who said some good wise things about morality, that really leaves him in the ranks of scores of other sages and philosophers who’ve said similar things, and well, we don’t see many people making a big two-month long brew ha ha about their birthdays, do we? No.
So for the Christian, is Jesus really the reason for the season? Yes—definitely, but that’s not the whole story. The real reason for the season is the Gospel, or ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ, which is that God became a man and and took the punishment for our sins so that we may have eternal life. When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in Luke 2:10-11, he put it this way:
“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Notice, he didn’t say, “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born a child who will grow up to be a good moral teacher and will eventually be brutally murdered due to a serious misunderstanding—but because he will say a lot of great things, his birth will be celebrated by billions for at least the next couple of thousand years or so.” I’m so thankful that the angel said the former and not the latter, because without the Gospel—without the cross and the resurrection, Jesus wouldn’t really be the reason for anything.
I want to leave you with my favorite clip from my favorite television Christmas special—one that almost didn’t make it on the air, because 48 years ago when it was first released (1965)—even back then—the network was worried about offending people with the gospel—without which I, like so many others, would be forced to create my own meaning at Christmas—in other words Christmas would be ultimately meaningless.