Santa Claus has been quite the controversial character for most of my life. He was never really a central part of my Christmas experience growing up or now with my children, but having attended some very conservative Christian schools, there were some very strong anti-Santa sentiments. One of my college professors often referred to him as “Satan Claus,” and took every opportunity to explain why he believed him to be a danger to the Christian faith. As I was growing up, most people were either against or avoided him altogether. I understand some of the concerns that many have about Santa. But, let’s be honest, there are greater evils to battle in the world than an immortal, rotund, jolly old man, who dresses in red, and gives gifts to the children (and adults) of the world.
Santa Claus is an insufficient substitute for Jesus, but he is great for pointing us to Jesus.
I have developed quite the fondness for dear old Santa Claus. As I noted in a post a few weeks back, I have a 4-foot-tall, plastic Santa who lives in my office. I have another Santa hanging from the gutters on the front of my house. And, I have a full Santa Claus costume that I wear periodically through the Christmas season. This year, I have found myself tuning in extra carefully when listening to songs and watching movies about Santa. I have concluded that Santa Claus is an insufficient substitute for Jesus, but he is great for pointing us to Jesus. Here are 4 ways Santa reminds us of our need for Jesus.
Santa Claus reminds us to give to others as Christ gave Himself for us. Santa’s whole purpose in life is to give gifts to the people of the world. This legend finds its origin in the life of the fourth century bishop of Myra, Saint Nicholas. One of the first and most well-known accounts, Nicholas rescued three young girls from being forced into a life of prostitution by dropping sacks of gold coins though the windows of their houses so their father could pay a dowry. In I John 4:10-11 we read, “This is love: not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Santa reminds us that part of our calling in life is to love others as Christ has loved us.
Santa Claus reminds us of our need for the unconditional love and grace of Christ. In the song, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, we are told that Santa is coming to give presents to boys and girls all over the world. It also tells us, “He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” While Santa loves you whether you’re rich or poor, and desires to give gifts to the children of the world, there are conditions that must be met in order to receive the fullness of his favor. The good news of Jesus is that God loves us, even when we are hopelessly bad, and He offers us the gift of Himself freely and without condition. We are favored by God because of Who He is and what He has done, not because of what we have done or will do.
Santa Claus reminds us that something special is coming. Anticipation is at the heart of the Christmas story. All of the songs about Santa Claus remind us that his coming is always ahead of us. As soon as one Christmas passes, we reset the clock and remember that he will come again. This reminds us of the good news of the gospel. At Christmas we remember that Christ Jesus was born in a manger to give Himself for us. We are reminded of a historical event that took place in the past, but we are also reminded of an event that is yet to come. That’s the truth of Advent. Christ has come; Christ will come again!
Santa Claus reminds us of the need to BELIEVE. As the legend goes, Santa Claus only comes to those who believe. The entire movie, The Polar Express, is about helping a young man believe in the magic of Christmas again. I totally agree that the wonder of Christmas is couched in our willingness and ability to believe with childlike faith. I would contend, however, that the object of our faith ought to be the one who inspired Saint Nicholas to give gifts, Jesus Christ. We need to spend more time nurturing faith in the Christ of Christmas than in the Santa He inspired.
Merry Christmas to you and yours! And, whether you celebrate Christmas with or without Santa, I pray the Joy, Hope, Peace, and Love of Christ flows through every part of your holiday experience. The best part of Christmas comes to us through the baby in the manger, Jesus Christ! GOD IS WITH US; GOD IS FOR US!