There is a rumor going around town that I am opposed to Santy Claus. I am the Anti-Claus if you believe the hot gossip. Nothing could be further from the truth. The people who believe this rumor clearly do not know me. As I have said in the past, I forced myself to believe that Santa visited on Christmas Eve with a sleigh full of presents until I was at least eleven. Few 63-year-olds play Elf on the Shelf every morning in December. I do. If there is no Santa Claus, is there really any point in hunting for an elf? I mean, if there is no Santa, from whenst would the elf have come? My personal elf, Kringle, knows his stuff and he tells me that he has a direct line to Santa, so I had better be good.
There is a story behind why some people think I am anti-Santa, but the why is somewhat irrelevant. The point is that the episode that gave rise to this mistaken belief has caused me to consider my own position on the matter.
I shared in prior Christmas-related blogs that I have a bifurcated view of Christmas. There is the sacred, faith-centered celebration of the incarnation when God entered the world fully human as well as fully divine in order to reconcile His people to Himself. While we recognize that Jesus probably was not born on the date we celebrate Christmas, we have identified the date to celebrate that He was, indeed, born to save us. The date is not important; the celebration and worship of Christ is.
There is also a secular celebration of Christmas that has a loose, diaphanous connection with the faith-centered celebration. It is a celebration of love and family and giving and magical story-telling that happened to intersect with the celebration of Jesus’ birth. We certainly see these lovely, sweet concepts in Christianity, but we believe that Jesus’ incarnation means something much, much more important. The notions of love, family, giving, the magic of storytelling also exist in the humanist world. Whatever a person’s world view, whatever their faith, whatever their philosophy- that person probably embraces the benefits of these notions.
The secular celebration evolved and endured even after the world culture started to grow away from Christianity. Some people who do not identify as Christians or churchgoers may still somewhat vaguely accept that the “true meaning of Christmas” is that the baby Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem. For other people, the connection between their secular Christmas tradition with Jesus may be as tentative as believing that the birth of Jesus is simply the origin story of a probable myth. Other people who do not believe in Jesus at all may also embrace the secular tradition of Christmas.
Many Christians try to amalgamate the sacred and secular views of Christmas into one, big, eclectic “Santa Claus kneeling beside the baby Jesus in the manger.” There is nothing wrong with that, but I find I cannot quite reconcile the two types of Christmases enough to combine them in my brain. I find it easier to honor the true meaning of Christmas for me if I focus on the fact that there are actually two celebrations on December 25- the celebration of the Incarnation and the celebration of a cultural Christmas.
People tell me that Santa Claus is an effective way to introduce children to the concept of giving. They say that we have Santa who gives gifts because the Three Wise Men brought gifts to the baby Jesus, who brought us the greatest gift of all- salvation. They say children relate to Santa.
I do not argue against that notion. There are plenty of opportunities for children to relate to Santa and for parents to teach the lesson of Christmas giving. I can even understand that we can get to Jesus using Santa as a starting place. I certainly do not argue against the fact that children relate to Santa.
I simply suggest that, in a Christian church, it makes sense that children also relate to Jesus. If there is anywhere where Santa should step aside for Jesus, it would be at church activities.
In my household, you will find three smiling Santa Claus figures. There are, however, at least 10 Nativity sets. While one Santa and one Nativity is probably sufficient for a 1500 square foot house, I like to think that my ratio of Santa and Nativity sets represents the focus of the relative celebrations. I relish hunting for Kringle each morning. I have been known to sit on Santa’s lap as an adult. I enjoy the beautiful lights and secular decorations. I like the funny Christmas t-shirts. I rock around the Christmas tree with the best of them. However, nothing can match the sheer joy and peace I get out of celebrating Jesus’ birth. My favorite Christmas songs are hymns. I light the candles on my Advent wreath every night and pray our daily devotional. My favorite holiday activities revolve around worshiping with my brothers and sisters in the faith.
Yes, I definitely enjoy the secular celebration- the term “giddy” comes to mind when I think about describing my cultural Christmas experience. So, I am not anti-Santa. However, as lovely as giddy is, I would rather feel joy and peace than giddy.
I have more Nativity sets than Santas beclaus Santa is with us for a season and Jesus is with us forever. I have more Nativity sets than Santas beclaus I think the story should start with Jesus and only then continue with the Santa tradition rather than starting with Santa and working our way back to Jesus. I have more Nativity sets than Santas beclaus Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, while Santa is just something fun to brighten the time in between, like Yahtzee and golf. I have more Nativity sets than Santas because Santa makes me jolly, and Jesus makes my joyful.
I have more Nativity sets than Santas just beclaus.
Those of you who follow along with my journey know that it is unusual for me to skip posting for two weeks in a row. I have been missing in action from the blogosphere the last couple of Wednesdays. I have been working on this piece for several weeks and have been a bit stuck. Even in reading it now, I am not sure about it. Maybe I am just an old curmudgeon. I’d love your feedback. Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.