I confess. I was Santa Claus for Sunday School Christmas parties. Not just for one year, but for several. And my fame spread so that one Christmas I was invited to be Santa for several Child Care Centers. This was all great fun for the children. And for me, too. I really didn’t think too much about it. After all, the Sunday School owned a Santa outfit and I had a hearty Ho, Ho, Ho. All was good.
But then questions were raised about this practice by several church members. “Should our church and pastor be engaged in perpetuating the Santa Claus myth,” they asked. Further, these devoted members reminded me that there is a world of difference between Jesus and Santa. For example:
- JESUS is everywhere … but Santa lives at the North Pole.
- JESUS is always present to help … but Santa comes but once a year.
- JESUS supplies all our needs … but Santa fills our stockings only with goodies.
- JESUS is as close as breathing … but you have to wait in line to see Santa.
- JESUS holds you securely in His arms … but Santa lets you sit on his lap.
And then to close their argument, they pointed out that in time children come to grasp that Santa is actually their mom and dad, or a devoted care giver, or Uncle Joe and Aunt Dot. Having been fooled by those they love and trust with the Santa prank, will they, in time, see Jesus in the same light, and set him and his ways aside? I got their point, so stashed the Santa outfit in the Sunday School closet. Though I’ve tried to maintain something of my Ho, Ho, Ho.
In time, however, I have come to appreciate that there are some ways that Santa and Jesus do blend quite nicely. For example:
- Both Santa and Jesus depend on others for assistance. Such as loving, caring people like moms and dads, and teachers, and foster parents and coaches and friends and neighbors.
- Also, Santa does his work everywhere around the globe … no place is left out. And so it is with Jesus whose compassion stretches to the ends of the earth and is carried by teachers, doctors and nurses, those who discover and spread ways for assuring clean water for all, and who do disaster relief work and assist the homeless and provide financial assistance for good works of peace and justice.
- With Jesus, no person is excluded from his love. “God so loved the world,” we affirm. In this matter, I believe, Santa gets a bad rap when we sing. “He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.” That’s certainly not Jesus’ way. Nor is that Santa’s way. It’s simply the way song writers John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie back in 1934 understood Santa. No doubt they wanted to strike some fear into their children, perhaps to get them to help-out with chores around the house, or to do better at school, or to get to bed…NOW.
Yes, I do confess that I was a Sunday School Santa … and I had fun playing that part. Life is so rich with opportunities to spread joy and goodwill and being Santa is one way to do that. But here are some helpful tips for navigating Advent and the Christmas season:
- We honor Jesus (and Santa) when our gifts include ample hugs, handshakes and words of encouragement.
- We honor Jesus (and Santa) when we extend grand hospitality, forgiveness, and thanksgiving.
- We honor Jesus (and Santa) when we attend to the poor and homeless, widows and orphans.
- We honor Jesus (and Santa) when we trust that our love and goodwill will take-up lodging within our children and grandchildren.
- We honor Jesus (and Santa) when our words and actions reflect the grace of God and the love of Jesus.
Will our children and grandchildren lose faith in Jesus just as they lost faith in Santa? I seriously doubt that happening. Rather, I see their faith deepening as they see the most significant people in their lives actively love and care for others. Trust me on this. Trust yourself. Our children will come to appreciate that Santa signifies a spirit of caring, generosity and joy. And that those qualities are good for all times and places. And are experienced fully in Jesus.
Originally Published: 12/4/2013