John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV)
During the first week of Advent last year, friends passed along to me a couple of e-mail messages that made me think for a bit. The first one was titled 50 Good Reasons Why Jesus is Better than Santa Claus. The other one was a very sentimental poem about a parent finding a letter to Santa on the floor of the child's room when they came in to check on them at night. This letter was a list of requests by the child for Santa to make things better in the world by ending hunger and poverty and war and so on.
I thought that was quite touching, until I realized that this was really a prayer to Santa Claus. Then I got upset. Why do people portray Santa as god-like, able to answer those kinds of prayers? Do they think that Santa can answer any prayer? After all, Santa is only a fictitious, jolly, old, fat man who brings "good" children toys once a year and hides out the rest of the time at the North Pole. I know that Santa is worshipped by the retailers, and I know that a large number of people are moved to help their less fortunate neighbours in a way that disguises Christ's love in a non-committal, warm, and fuzzy feeling for the season.
Last Advent, Bruce Dinsmore wrote a devotional in which his neighbour described his Halloween decorations as "harmless fun for kids" and "neighbourhood fun". I imagine those are the same reasons too many of us push Jesus off to the side in favour of the fat guy in the red suit. He's more "fun". Well that "fun" began with a genuine saint trying to care for street children. Saint Nicholas' legend was combined with a poem that caught a nation's fancy and has been exploited ever since by non-Christians, and embraced by Christians "for fun". It has insidiously wormed its way into our culture to the extent that now it's cute and acceptable to write poetry exalting Santa as a powerful supernatural being. It is interesting that his suit is red.
"What can we do?" you ask. Let's down play Santa in our Christmas celebration and elevate Christ. Eliminate Santa and his reindeer from our yards and have nativity scenes or a simple cross. We need to put Christ back in CHRISTmas. Jesus is still the reason for the season.
Prayer: O Lord our God and Saviour, thank You for the gift of Your son, whose birth we celebrate, and whose second coming we anticipate at this time of year. Help us to give each other the gift of love that You so freely gave to us. Help us not to confuse that gift with the presents under our Christmas tree. Amen.