So the Atheists are back, and they have a new billboard (because all the best-spirited debate happens when billboards get involved) in Times Square. It's animated (because why should Jesus have all the tacky adverts?); it starts off by saying "Who needs Christ during Christmas?", and then there's a bit of CGI whizziness and it changes to "Nobody needs Christ during Xmas".
Now, first of all, I appreciate that there are plenty of atheists out there who are facepalming at this; the ones who mocked the atheist bus campaign, and who hide under cushions when Richard Dawkins goes off on one again. And secondly, if they have the money and want to buy screentime, who am I to stop them?
But mainly I want to discuss their key point, that nobody needs Christ at Christmas. Firstly, this is a stupid argument to make, because, as any student of logic will tell you, you can't prove that something doesn't exist, whether that something is God, or a blue elephant, or "a person who needs Christ at Christmas"*. I'm being pedantic here, but a certain brand of atheist would go nuts if this was the other way around, so I'm not going to feel bad about it.
* It's a bit more complex than this, but still.
But secondly, and this is my main point today, I'm going to disagree with them, put my hands up, and say "I do. I need Christ this Christmas". I can't prove it to you, or use logic to persuade you, because I don't have a logical, rational argument (mainly because my life insists on being illogical and irrational). And I know that for some, only the logical and rational will suffice, but for me, I need there to be something else.
I need Christ because Christmas fills me with dread. At the darkest, coldest, most difficult time of the year, I'm expected to be merry and bright; I'm expected to go to parties; when all I want is the safety of bed and quiet and warm, I have to organise, plan, attend, pretend to enjoy, and I need Christ because I need to hear "You're enough, as you are. You're loved and accepted on the bad, grumpy, teary days as much as you are on the happy, excited, joyful days. You don't need to do more or be more. You're enough, and you're loved".
I need Christ because I often don't like myself; I hear criticism where none is meant; I hear sarcasm and anger when I need gentle words and compassion; and every time the fear rises and the anxiety comes and I need Christ because, Oh God, I don't want to cut again, but I need to let the feelings out and I need to hear the still, small voice saying "I know. I understand", and I need to let the tears run hot without judgement.
I need Christ because I don't always love my husband as well as I could; because love is not a feeling, but a series of choices, and a lot of the time I need help to make the right one.
I need Christ because I've made mistakes this year. I've hurt, I've lied, I've let down, I've judged, I've condemned. My best efforts have missed the mark. I need Christ because I need to hear "You're forgiven. You will always be forgiven. And you will overcome."
I need Christ because I've been lied to, I've been let down, I've been betrayed and abandoned, and I need to hear "I am with you always".
I need Christ because my friends have been beaten, abused, raped, cheated, widowed; they've had miscarriages and cancer and depression; they've been hurt and belittled and seen their dreams ripped up and their stories trampled. I need Christ because I need to be able to say "There is healing; there is hope; there is peace and joy and love for those who cannot even dare to imagine it".
I need Christ because my friends have cheated, lied, stolen; they've had affairs, fought, and gossiped, and I need Christ because I need to be able to say "There is redemption and restoration, and there is forgiveness and there is reconciliation, and sin is never the most powerful thing".
I need Christ because all the willpower in the world can't make me less afraid or more patient or give me any hope of transformation. As Robbie Williams sang, "You can't manufacture a miracle", and yet, a miracle is exactly what I need to hope for, in my life, and in my friends' lives, and it would be nice to have a machine to churn out miracles on demand, but instead I can only hope and pray and hold on to the promises with the tiny grain of faith that keeps living when it should have died.
So I respect the atheists' opinion, but I respectfully exercise my right to disagree; I know that others will say they don't need Christ for any of this, but I can only say that I do, and why don't we all just get on with things that matter and not be twerps about it?