Atheists at Christmas

The Adoration of the Shepherds by Strozzi (Restored Traditions)

The Adoration of the Shepherds by Strozzi (Restored Traditions)

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved). (Ephesians 2:4).

“Most Christians are really atheists who feel trapped in their family’s religion. They need not be Christian to enjoy the holiday season.” This cynical explanation is how David Silverman, president of American Atheists, rationalized the giant billboard in Times Square. Images of Santa and Jesus encourage the huge crowd of shoppers to “Keep the Merry!” (Santa) and “Dump the Myth!” (Jesus).

Are you a Christian on the surface but an atheist at your core, trapped in your family’s religious culture? Do you attend services and adhere to family customs because of habit, because you are expected to do so?

Jesus is the answer

If so, then you are missing the second point: Jesus is the answer. No, you need not be a Christian to enjoy the season, in a secular way. Santa Claus inspires the Spirit of Giving – and the spirit of spending, as the retailers well know! He brings excitement into the season. But the Santa Claus magic doesn’t last. The gifts and trappings of Christmas give you temporary joy, but a January letdown.

I recall a family celebration many years ago when our Christmas dessert was a birthday cake for Baby Jesus. The rich Indian Earth cake was baked in a bundt pan, which has a large opening in the center and then sprinkled with powdered sugar. I put a candleholder with a tall candle in the opening in back of a small manger scene. We lit the candle and as the children gathered to sing “Happy Birthday,” one relative asked, “Whose birthday is it?” This relative loved Christmas celebrating, eating, caroling and especially opening gifts. It was an emotional high for her. But a few days later she was back to dull normal. Her Christmas memory bank was updated with this year’s event just before it faded into a collage of Christmases past, leaving her heart and her life unchanged.

Santa Clause season

So you need not be a Christian to enjoy the Santa Clause season. But it’s a very short season compared to what Jesus brought us for the rest of the year and into eternity. Christians celebrate the miracle of the Incarnation in which Christ comes among us. He is born in our hearts as our Savior. Christians possess the Spirit behind all the food, gifts, caroling, family time and partying. The Spirit of Christmas in their hearts isn’t limited to one week of surface revelry. Like the powdered sugar on the Indian Earth cake, it will all melt into the background of a photo on a FaceBook page.

The Holy Spirit of Christmas is all around us. It’s waiting for us to invite Our Savior into our lives. Not just into our family room but our office party and our caroling service. He’s waiting to come fully into our hearts so that we don’t pack away the Holy Spirit of Christmas along with the tree and the lights. We don’t throw the Holy Spirit of Christmas out with the wrapping paper and ribbon. We keep it in our hearts. We nurture it by protecting it from secular assaults that declare it a myth. In shines from within us the other 51 weeks of the year.

Don’t be trapped by your family’s expectations. Make the Spirit of Christmas your own heart-deep year-round celebration of God’s unrelenting love for you. He sacrificed his Son to give you love, salvation and life everlasting. Rejoice! For yours is the kingdom of God!

How will you celebrate the birth of your Saviour deep in your heart so it will last?

© 2016 Nancy HC Ward

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About Nancy Ward

Nancy HC Ward is a journalist, author, and speaker who blogs about Catholicism, her conversion, and Christian community at,
 7 websites and 7 magazines. She loves to share her faith story and help others share theirs through her Sharing Your Faith Stories seminars, also available on DVD. She contributed four chapters to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. She facilitates the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers and a critique group for the Catholic Writers Guild, where she serves as a board member.
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2 Responses to Atheists at Christmas

  1. As secular society works overtime to suppress all expression of the Christian faith, so does that expression continue to fade during social occasions and discourse. I wish I could say I have not been influenced in the same way. At times I’ve had the urge to force Jesus back into the forefront. But I have found a better way: to let my joy and passion for Christ burn freely in how I act and in what I say. Others see the flame and are drawn to it. Come, Lord Jesus! Set our hearts on fire!

    • Nancy Ward says:

      Your thoughtful comment expresses my mission to inspire and equip Catholics to “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” Because you are a shining light, people will be curious as to where you get your fire and your hope. The Christmas season is ideal as we see people we haven’t seen in many months or years. When they ask you, “What’s new?” they want to know what makes you shine. Did Jesus help you through a job transition, health problem or financial crisis this year? That’s your cue to begin a dialog with them and keep the emphasis on what God has done! God bless you!

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