And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
- From the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2
At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.
- From the Atheists' Display at the Washington State Capitol Building
God's Christmas message to all of us is one of "peace" and "good will," as documented in the portion of Holy Scripture referenced above. He has no other agenda, hidden or otherwise. He showed no shame at His declaration of love to us, as it was carried on the glorious voices of the angels. The message was first shared with shepherds and, soon, others would know the free gift of God and follow in their footsteps. The shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem."
Our second reference above holds a different message. It is one that calls for a "reason" that will "prevail." "Reason," it goes on to explain, is the absence of a belief in Heavenly things. The preference, it declares, is to mind only the "natural world." While religion "hardens hearts" and "enslaves minds," their homage to the natural world must then bring about the opposite, right? They are soft-hearted and open-minded, are they not?
In the Gospel of Luke, it is recorded that Mary "kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." What things? These things:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God...
When man first encounters God, he is afraid. He is afraid because he comes to realize how small he really is when confronted with the majesty and might of his Creator. From Moses, who could not stand in His presence, to these shepherds, who could not stand without fear, God has an answer. The angel called this answer "good tidings." These tidings that are also a "great joy" is the news that a babe has been born that will once and for all remove the fear, and the shame, and the emptiness, from our hearts. Mary replaced all these things in her heart with the good news that the shepherds heard from the angels. Jesus, the Saviour, had entered the natural world. Whom will you worship (ponder)? This gift of God, or, the ground (and the water) upon which he walked?