The uncontroversial Christmas
Nobody can steal the joy of Christmas for those who have seen Jesus.
What happened to "peace on earth, good will toward men?" It seems each year, the media reports more about who is the most offended by Christmas. This year, an activist atheist group placed a sign at the Washington State capitol reading, "There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens our hearts and enslaves our minds."
People—presumably Christians—objected because the sign overshadowed a Nativity scene, but Governor Christine Gregoire initially permitted the message to remain before the pressure caused her to make some concessions.
I know this was purposely designed to offend, but part of me thinks, "Who cares?" I’m not surprised when ungodly people act ungodly. And compared to the persecution suffered by Jesus’ disciples or even the harassment endured by so many believers around the world, a sign at a Nativity scene is pretty impotent.
When the disciples saw Jesus after His resurrection, the Bible says, "they were filled with joy when they saw the Lord." Jesus blessed them by saying, "Peace be with you."
To me, that’s the message of Christmas (and every other day of the year!) When we see Jesus, we are filled with joy and He gives us peace. No activist atheist can rob us of that kind of joy and no sign can take away our peace.
People have sought to silence the message of Christ for 2,000 years. The authorities in Jerusalem (many of them religious rulers) demanded that Christians not speak at all. Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:18-20)
A few sentences later, the records tell us, "With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all." (Acts 4:33)
So the precedent exists for Christians to openly speak of the miracles of Christ. Presumably, that would include the virgin birth, healings, changed lives, crucifixion and resurrection.
Regardless of the level of disapproval — from outright persecution to modern intellectual disdain — followers of Jesus Christ have no obligation to hide in silence. God never encouraged closet Christianity.
At the same time, our testimony must always be accompanied by grace, which Merriam-Webster defines as "dignified or restrained beauty of form, appearance, or style." Translation: When a department store worker says, "Happy Holidays," a Christian may wish to warmly reply, "Merry Christmas." But it should be spoken gracefully, not shouted, and accompanied with a smile, not a sneer.
The point of our testimony is not to stand up for our rights, but to stand up for the One who is always right.
If we have truly seen Jesus, our joy and peace will naturally exude. Though some will continue to reject the Lord, many more will see the impact that Christ has on our lives and be drawn to it.
No matter how many signs atheists put in the way, people will always want to know, "Who’s in that manger and what is He all about?" Then, we can share the joy we have found and impart His peace into their lives. That’s the kind of Christmas we can all celebrate.