December 6: Santa Claus
I hesitated writing this post… for I know there are many Christians who dislike the association of our beloved Savior with a jolly old elf in a bright red suit. Some believe this image perpetuates the consumerism, and greed, of our present generation. They fear this connection between Santa and Christ degrades the role of the Almighty God as nothing more than a magic genie, appearing long enough to grant wishes and then disappearing into the clouds again. Please know that I do not mean to offend those who may share these beliefs.
But I have a different point of view.
I think Santa has helped me understand the true nature of a loving God who desires to “do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20).
Santa’s jolly nature, twinkling eyes and merry dimples beckon all children to come sit on his lap and fellowship. He does not discriminate; he does not judge nor condemn; but rather, he welcomes all who believe with open arms and unconditional love. This reminds me of Matthew 19:14 when Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me, and do not hinder them…”
Santa cautions children to be good, kind, and gentle with one another; doing otherwise can have negative consequences and lead to disappointment (coal rather than toys).
God also gives us similar commands:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Although this is where Santa and God differ. God’s gifts, love, and acceptance are not tied to our works – they are simply tied to our faith.
This has always been a difficult concept for me. After all, God gave us the ten commandments and old testament laws – and rules are meant to followed, right?
I used to imagine Him sitting on His heavenly Throne with the Book of Life opened to my page. Only in my imagination, the book was a ledger sheet and our loving heavenly Father was a strict Divine Accountant – keeping accurate notes of every little debit and credit in my “good works” account. Of course I fell short – for “we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) And in turn, I thought I was always a disappointment to Him.
But if we just have faith – if we simply believe in this baby Christ-child as the savior of all our shortcomings, we shall receive eternal life. We no longer have to fear the ledger sheet; we just need to accept the unconditional love, grace and mercy of a perfect Father.
I still struggle… just as the young Susan Walker in the holiday classic, Miracle on 34th Street. She had been a good girl; she had obeyed the rules, and she confessed her belief in Santa. And yet on Christmas morning, she did not receive the one gift she had requested. Her mother then told her: Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.
Hard words to hear and understand for a pragmatic like me.
But later Susan tries to heed her mother’s advice. Returning home from a holiday party, Susan sits in the back seat mumbling: “I believe… I believe… it’s silly, but I believe.”
My prayer continues to be: “I do believe. Please help me overcome my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
And I know God will honor that prayer.
So on this December 6th … the anniversary of the death of St. Nicholas, I celebrate the selfless spirit and kind generosity of Santa Claus, who has helped me understand the unconditional love and acceptance of my heavenly Father.