Thursday, December 22, 2011
Yes, I am a Believer
I have seen mention in the news lately of “Santa Wars”, with the question of whether Santa is taking over Christmas. And with our youngest now twelve, I’ve also been asked what it’s like to have a house full of non-believers. Non-believers? Santa has no place in Christmas? Hum Bug.
Many, many years ago, my oldest daughter came of the age that she began to question the logistics of Santa’s Christmas Eve journey. When she came to me with those questions, I gave her an answer that crushed her little spirit—as if I’d touched my finger to the Christmas spark in her eye.
The image of that disappointed little child caused me to ponder the appropriate place of Santa Claus in our Christmas celebration. And to reevaluate my response to my subsequent children. I doubt if any of those children recall a conversation like I had with my oldest—which by the way was fairly approximate to the one I’d had with my mother a generation earlier—because that conversation never took place again.
And here is why:
First, it’s important to remember that Christ taught in parables. He told stories that sounded simple to the simple minded. Fishermen, shepherds, farmers and widows were among his cast of characters. There was always a second and deeper meaning to his stories, understood by his faithful followers who were ready to hear and understand.
To the very young, Santa is just a really amazing guy who sneaks into their house and brings gifts on Christmas Eve. As those youngsters grow in wisdom, some of the deeper meanings begin to (or can begin to) form in their minds.
Some are fairly obvious: Santa dresses in red to symbolize the blood Christ shed in our behalf. Santa has a snowy white beard, to represent Christ’s purity.
But the correlations don’t stop there. Santa is full of cheer, symbolic of the Christ’s mission to bring joy to all mankind. Santa gives gifts, symbolic of the ultimate gift of life Christ gave to us. Both Santa and Christ dedicate their entire being to serving mankind.
It requires extreme faith on the part of a young child to believe that a fat guy they have never seen is going to fly to their rooftop with a sleigh pulled by reindeer, slide down their chimney and leave presents just for them. But it makes them feel awfully special.
It also takes faith to believe that a lowly carpenter born in a manger was actually a king who was able to atone for each of our sins and give us the gift of eternal life. This faith also makes us understand how special we are in the eyes of God.
Yes it is true that faith in Christ is ever so much more important than faith in Santa. But for those who understand the nature of parables, the difference is obvious.
At some point in time we all reach an age where we begin to see outside of ourselves to the world around us. We come to realize that Santa couldn’t possibly complete his mission on his own. He needs helpers across the globe to ensure that no child is forgotten.
Christ, too, needs helpers. While he is mindful of our needs, he can’t physically make a phone call to the lonely and harried young mother. Or visit the sick. Or prepare food and provide clothing to the homeless. Or tell a young child that he or she is loved.
Since Christ cannot do all these things himself, he needs angels. He needs us.
Just as Santa needs us to be his elves.
Santa is not just for children. He is a reminder to us all that when in the service of our fellowman, we are actually in the service of our God.
And that is why in my house we will always believe.