Dear saints at Emmanuel and at Sts. Peter and Paul,
The image above is an actual billboard that atheists are posting this year in a few cities across the country. Here is a partial explanation of it from the American Atheists website:
“Even children know churches spew absurdity, which is why they don’t want to attend services. Enjoy the time with your family and friends instead,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “Today’s adults have no obligation to pretend to believe the lies their parents believed. It’s OK to admit that your parents were wrong about God, and it’s definitely OK to tell your children the truth.”
I’m not writing to you to express outrage or frustration concerning the atheists or to complain about their billboard. They do not want to know the God who sent His Son into our world to redeem sinful men. They do not believe in the Word made flesh. They do not want Him for a Savior, and they don’t want their children to believe in a fairy-tale god. I expect nothing else from the atheists. Their actions are perfectly consistent with their unbelief.
Instead, I’m writing to encourage you to consider the logic behind their argument. Those who don’t believe in Christ have every reason to skip church on Christmas Day. If the incarnation of the Son of God in the womb of the virgin Mary is nothing but a fairy tale, if “a Savior who is Christ the Lord” has not been born to us, if He did not suffer and die for our sins and rise again on the third day, if heaven and hell are fictional places, if there is no divine judgment to consider, no sins that need forgiving and no God who forgives them, then it makes perfect sense for you to skip church on Christmas Day—and on Sundays, too, for that matter. In that case, it makes perfect sense for you to “enjoy the time with your family and friends instead,” as the atheists encourage you to do.
But by the grace of God, you do believe in the Word made flesh. You know that the Christmas story is not a fairy tale. You have been baptized into the name of the God who chose to be “born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). You know that the Christmas Gospel is true, and you want your children to know it, too.
And so I write to you now, more than two weeks before our Christmas Day service, to remind you of the logical conclusion of your faith. What message would it send to the atheists of the world if Christians were to skip church on Christmas — or on Sundays, for that matter? Just as the atheists’ unbelief will lead them to skip church on Christmas Day, so I urge you, if at all possible, to attend church on Christmas Day, because you know and believe that Christ was born for you. What’s more, you know and believe that the same Christ sends His Holy Spirit to you in the Gospel that will be preached on that day, and that the real body and blood of that non-fictional Jesus will be offered to you at the Christ-Mass in the Holy Meal of the Sacrament. Your attendance on Christmas Day, and on Sundays, of course, is your witness to the world that these things are true.
The unbelieving world has tried to make Christmas about enjoying time with family and friends. But you know better. You know that Christmas is, above all, for hearing the Christmas Gospel, for receiving the body and blood of Him who was born to die for your sins, and for singing praises to the God who loved us enough to become one of us. Let the atheists stay home for Christmas. It fits with their confession of unbelief. As for you, let your presence at the Christ-Mass serve as your confession of faith to the atheists: “Christ’s birth is no fairy tale. Christ the Savior has been born, and He will be there at my church on Christmas. So I’m going to church to spend Christmas with Him.”
Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Divine Service for the Festival of the Nativity of Our Lord
10 AM on December 25th
A servant of Christ,