You may have heard that the American Atheists group has been levying a campaign against the celebration of the birth of Christ. They put up billboards depicting three men riding camels toward a stable, two figures kneeling by what is supposed to be a manger, a donkey hitched nearby, and a six-pointed star glowing in the distance.
The sign looks like this:
They may be surprised to know that I agree—at least, in part. What they have depicted is a myth. If we look carefully at what the Bible teaches about the events of Christ’s birth, we can reasonably conclude that most of what is depicted in this picture is indeed a myth. They got the star and the manger right, but that is about it.
Three Wise Men?
The magi did not arrive at the place of Christ’s birth, but at a house in Bethlehem as late as two years after the birth.1 The magi’s presence at the nativity is a popular tradition, but it cannot be reasonably drawn from the Bible. Also, the Bible makes no mention of the number of magi that were present. Some infer from the three gifts that there were three wise men, but that is not necessarily the case. Nor would they have traveled alone. As foreign dignitaries, they would likely have been accompanied by a host of attendants and guards to protect and support them on their journey from the East.
An Outdoor Stable?
Apart from being laid in a manger, the biblical text does not indicate that Christ was born in a stable. That is the commonly held view, but it is not based in Scripture. It is highly unlikely that the couple arrived in Bethlehem moments before the birth. The “inn” was not a hotel and animals are not mentioned in the text. This doesn’t mean that all of these ideas are patently false, but they are often accepted without any reasoning from the Scripture.2 Let us take care to rightly divide the words of Scripture and not import our own ideas and traditions into God’s Word.
A Reasonable Call
I would challenge the atheists who believe they have painted an accurate picture to quit listening to what other people tell them about the birth of Christ and to think for themselves. They often level this claim against Christians who actually study the Bible and know what it teaches. Why don’t they at least make a reasonable argument against what the Bible really says rather than torching straw men? The ability to reason is a gift from God, and we should celebrate that gift.
The intent of the atheist campaign is to cast aspersions on the birth of the Son of God in human flesh—a miracle by any standard—but to do so they must borrow from the Christian worldview. They must use reason to make their arguments, and reason is only reasonable because God has made a universe that obeys understandable laws and has given us minds we can use to draw reasonable conclusions about our world.
Without God, as He is presented in the Bible, reason makes no sense. If the universe is simply the result of random processes with no meaning, the laws of logic cannot exist. If there is no purpose to life, then why do atheists try to convert people to their faith system?
Christians have a reason to share the gospel message. All of mankind is guilty of sin (Romans 3:9–18) and faces the just judgment of God for that sin. The real reason for the season is to celebrate the Savior who was born of a virgin on that wonderful night. Without His perfect life, His death on the Cross to pay the penalty of sin, and His Resurrection, every person would be rightly condemned to hell for their sins. But God in His mercy offers the gift of eternal life with Him to all who repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ.
This gives great cause to celebrate, and it is a great reason to proclaim the birth, life, death, and Resurrection of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Every day of the year, Christians should celebrate who Christ is and what He has done.