After a businessman noticed an atheist group's billboard in North Carolina encouraging people to "skip church" this holiday season, he decided to post a very public response.
But rather than attack atheists or take a negative tone, David Johnson — owner of Johnson Nursery in Willard, North Carolina — erected a billboard aimed at reminding people about what Christmas is really all about, WECT-TV reported.
The billboard features a silhouette version of the nativity, with the words "Merry Christmas" boldly displayed; "Christ" is underlined to place emphasis on the religious nature of the holiday.
"We hear holiday this and season that, but rarely Christmas," Johnson told WECT-TV of his motivation for posting the giant placard.
Johnson said that staffers at his company were so bothered by a billboard funded by American Atheists, a New Jersey-based activist group, that they collected money and each pitched in to pay for the "Merry Christmas" message.
As TheBlaze previously reported, the atheist billboard — which is posted in numerous southern cities — features a little girl and her mock letter to Santa. It reads, “Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I’m too old for fairy tales.”
At first glance, the text appears to be a direct response to the vast majority of American Christians who embrace at least some of what the Bible recounts about Christ’s purported divinity, though atheist leaders have said it's more targeted at courting "closet atheists" too afraid to speak out.
Either way, it appears some Christians want to send a more uplifting alternative message this holiday season. Johnson, in fact, isn't alone in his response.
Grace Church in Alma, Arkansas, also opted to counter American Atheists' message with a billboard of its own, welcoming individuals with questions and doubts to attend the house of worship.
"Our goal is not to oppose their message, but rather to respond with love and support," the church wrote on its website. "We actually welcome their desire to support those who have felt alienated by believers and start discussion between and among the Atheist and Christian communities."
The description continued: "This is an opportunity for us to communicate our respect for their beliefs and also offer an open invitation to anyone who has questions, doubts, or curiosity, 'You are welcome among us.'"