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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Finding Jesus in Santa Claus

I didn’t want to attend the Christmas event at my son’s school. The event would be held on a Saturday and would include crafts, story time, snacks, and a visit with Santa Claus. We had already visited with Santa Claus once that season, and I was trying to minimize the commercialism of Christmas in our family. Christmas wasn’t about trees and toys and lights and men in red suits. Jesus, not Santa Claus, was the real reason for Christmas, and I wanted my children to focus on Jesus.

Despite my feelings about our Christmas focus, I found myself at the school sitting on a rug surrounded by children anxiously awaiting a Christmas story. I dreaded the story – it would be just another secularized version of all of the wrong reasons for Christmas, and I would have to find a way to repair the damage done to my kids’ Christian minds.

A jolly looking man with a fluffy, salt-and-pepper beard entered the room and greeted us. He sat on a stool at the front of the room and asked the kids some questions to warm up the crowd. He pulled a ceramic statue out of a box, and I instantly recognized Santa Claus. But there was something else there. Wrapped in a blanket and cradled in Santa’s arms was a newborn baby. I thought it was odd that Santa would be cradling an infant instead of embracing a child.

Our storyteller asked us about the statue. Who was the man in red? What did we know about him? There was plenty of dialogue from and among his young audience. Everyone had something to offer about Santa Claus. Then the storyteller said, “Why is Santa Claus holding this baby and who is the baby?” No one knew.

Baby Jesus never crossed my mind because I had never associated Santa Claus with baby Jesus. So when the storyteller said “This is baby Jesus” I began to pay closer attention. In those few minutes, as the storyteller spoke, I learned that in my attempt to remove all things that didn’t directly display Jesus, I had removed love from Christmas. Love, the most important thing Jesus asks us to share, I trampled, because in my mind it didn’t seem Christian-like to focus on others when we should be honoring Jesus’ birthday.

The best way to transform ourselves into the likeness of Jesus is to love others, and Christmas provides us with an opportune time to share Jesus’ love. What good does it do us to display a nativity scene in our front yard if we are not pouring into others what baby Jesus in the manger stands for?

Santa Claus was created in the likeness and character of a man named Nicholas who was born in the third century. Nicholas was a devout Christian who dedicated his life to serving God. He helped the needy and loved and protected children. Nicholas obeyed Jesus and reflected His love and compassion so boldly in his life that Nicholas was honored as a Saint. It is believed that God worked through Saint Nicholas performing miracles and accomplishing extraordinary deeds here on Earth. Saint Nicholas obeyed and adored Jesus. Saint Nicholas allowed Jesus to shine through him, and that is Saint Nicholas’s connection to Jesus. Although Saint Nicholas never actually cradled baby Jesus in his arms, the symbolism is of Saint Nicholas protecting all that Jesus was and all that Jesus came here to do.

Has Santa Claus replaced Jesus? Only in the minds of those who have allowed it to. In my house, Santa Claus is Jesus’ helper. I no longer seek to eliminate the things that don’t directly display Jesus during Christmas. I simply share the love of Jesus in all of the beautiful things that surround us. Blinking lights are Jesus’ birthday candles or stars on that sacred Christmas night. Christmas trees are the wood used to build the manger. Santa Claus reminds us of Saint Nicholas and how he lived his life for God. Presents symbolize the gifts presented to the newborn King. Delivering food and presents to needy families show how Saint Nicholas pleased God and allow us to demonstrate the love of Jesus.

If we are slathering our houses in lights and inflatable Santas and snowmen, does it make us any less Christian? If we are sharing the love, joy, and celebration of Christmas, we are reflecting the character of Jesus and honoring God’s arrival on Earth no matter what decorations we use in our celebrations.

7 comments :

  1. Shauna Renee' said...

    Thanks so much for sharing, Karen! This is awesome, and you do a great job in portraying the "reason for the season". (Saw your link on Facebook too, will be sharing it so my other Facebook friends can see it.) Beautiful.

  2. Lori Stanley Roeleveld said...

    You are very honest and transparent about your concerns about Santa, Karen. I love that you are seeking a way to share Christ rather than jumping to polarizing differences! Keep at it. Wonderful message. Like Paul and the statue to an unknown God and the Greeks in Acts, we should use what we find around us to engage people in a dialog about Jesus.

  3. Stephanie Faris said...

    I think there's the commercialism of the season and then there's celebration...putting lights all over your house seems to me to be celebrating. Same with the tree. It's all a way to celebrate. The hard part is that schools have to keep religion out of things, which is a shame, so they've taken the "Christ" out of "Christmas," mostly to resist offending someone. It's good that your son's school found a way to incorporate it and bring it all together.

  4. warrenjc said...

    Very nice Karen. I amazed that they let the Santa even mention the name Jesus. They should be able to because there is no such thing as separation of church and state. That fallacy was perpetrated by gov. They based it on the Jefferson letter which was to be a one directional wall. It was meant NOT to stop religion but to keep the gov out and from making a state religion where everybody was a certain denomination. That's it. I display lights but display angels, mangers and pics of Jesus as well. I love Christmas. Keep writing Karen. You do good.

    Jim

  5. Shannon O'Donnell said...

    I loved this story! What a beautiful way to look at Santa and Christmas. This post really touched my heart and I found myself smiling and nodding as I read it! :)

  6. Marie said...

    Hi Karen,

    GREAT point, girl! You sound a lot like me. I went through the same season of doubt regarding Santa and whatnot, but came to basically the same conclusion. However, I couldn't have articulated it nearly as well as you did. Nice work.

    I'm not sure if I'm "following" your blog or not. I will add it now, if not. Have a great Christmas season!

  7. Anysia Derora said...

    This is so awesome and very well said! Thanks for being so transparent!

    I grew up believing in Santa but also knowing that Jesus was the reason for the season, so to speak. It wasn't until I got around some very strict, religious folks that I began to wonder about Santa. Today, I believe as you do that just like us the life of Saint Nicholas is a living epistle celebrating the fullness of the love of God poured out the day He sent Jesus to walk among us!