So one atheist was Christmas shopping with another atheist. The mall was crowded, but people were jolly. The Yuletide music was blaring and all of a sudden Atheist #1 starts singing aloud to the song, “O come let us adore Him. O come let us adore Him. Christ the Lord.”
Atheist #2 is appalled. “How can you sing that stuff?”
“Oh, I don’t listen to the words. I just like the music,” he answers.
“Yeah, that’s what my 15-year-old says when he listens to explicit rock lyrics, but I don’t believe him either.”
It’s hard to think of Christmas carols containing explicit lyrics, but it might seem that way to people who don’t believe in Christ. There is irony in an atheist singing about adoring Christ the Lord.
Biblical events show that God is not above a little irony. He blessed Sarah and Abraham with their son Isaac when Sarah was beyond childbearing years. A mere shepherd boy named David killed the giant Goliath. Joseph’s brothers relied on him for deliverance, even though they sold him into slavery. And perhaps the greatest irony of all was the birth of Jesus.
People were looking for a Messiah with a flaming sword. Even though Christ’s birth fulfilled numerous Old Testament prophecies concerning everything from his lineage to where he would be born, people did not recognize him. They were expecting someone strong and powerful, not a helpless child. They were looking for a king, not a baby born in a manger. The irony of it all was that this baby in the manger was the King.
He was called Immanuel, which means God with us (Matthew 1:21-23; Isaiah 7:14). Miraculously, God became flesh and lived among us. He brought salvation to everyone — from the poorest shepherd to the richest Magi. In telling us about it, the Gospel of John adds, “We have seen his glory” (John 1:14). But many did not see Christ’s glory. They could not see beyond him being a baby in a manger.
Much of our faith depends on what we see when we look in that manger. Some look and see a prophet or a good, moral teacher. The atheist might just see a baby. The agnostic doesn’t know what he sees. What do we see when we look in the manger? Do we see the Son of God, Immanuel, and the Savior of humanity?
I think God smiles when he hears an atheist sing, “O come let us adore him.” In some ironic way the atheist is giving honor to the one he denies. On the other hand, Christians can be mindful and jubilant when they sing these explicit lyrics: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!” They are honoring the one who came to save even his enemies, and that might just be the happiest irony of all.
By Barbara Dahlgren