Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas thought #1: on Santa Claus


On the Wednesday before Christmas we had a candlelight Christmas service at church. We had a lovely time of singing before a message from a visiting pastor. His sermon was addressing the question about what the real meaning of Christmas is, and in it he referenced several different cultural expressions or answers to this question. He referenced Santa Clause, but not by name, and said, “If this guy knows whether or not you’ve been good, he possesses some form of omniscience….” He then made it clear that he is never comfortable ascribing the qualities and attributes of God to mere men or to fictional characters.

This comment about Santa made me think a little bit. At least some of the lore surrounding Santa Claus started because Nicolas, the Bishop of Myrna (lived in the 3rd or 4th century), was thought to have done some deed of gift giving as one of his miracles contributing to his sainthood. Therefore, stories about the true person of Nicholas morphed into his performing various miracles and then into the current stories surrounding Santa Claus.

So, I was thinking about the Christian roots of the myth of Santa Claus, and I had a very interesting revelation. Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that Santa Claus is real and he is good old (very old) Saint Nicholas. He has been blessed with virtual immortality (so that he could live for almost two millennia) and he even has a current ministry of giving gifts to people. And finally, his measuring rod on whether he gives gifts to little children (or anyone for that matter) is whether they’ve been naughty or nice.

Now, as a Christian, Nicholas has only one standard by which to measure naughtiness, and that is in view of what is good. Again, as a Christian there is only one true good, and that is God. Everyone else has broken God’s laws at some point during the year (during any given day, hour, or minute if you want to really get serious), and therefore no one would be qualified for receiving gifts. In fact, even if Nicholas had his job from the foundation of the world, he could have only given gifts to Adam and Eve before they sinned and then to Christ for his 33 or so years that He was alive.

So, basically, Santa Claus has had the biggest cake job in the history of the world. He has never had to deliver one present because no one, absolutely no one, can make it through one year and meet the standard by which any Christian measures good and bad. That standard is God’s Law, the 10 Commandments. Christ summed up the entire Law and the prophets in two commandments: (a) to love God your heart, soul, mind and strength, and (b) to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).

Realistically, there is no Santa Claus, but God does judge who’s been naughty and nice by the same standard. And if you’ve been naughty, you don’t get a lump of coal in a sock, you get eternal damnation. All humanity is under this curse and judgment. And it is only by seeing yourself in the light of this unmerciful standard of judgment that we can be in a place where we can trust in the only true and merciful Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Trying to change your life and cease from offending God will not help you. For it is only by God’s saving and renewing power that we can truly turn from our sins and live for Him. You cannot turn from sins without placing your faith in Christ, and you cannot place your faith in Christ without turning from your sins.

1 comment:

St. Michael the Archangel said...

I don't agree with the Americanized Santa Claus. I know for a fact that it was Nicholas of Myrna that this attributes to. As the tradition goes (I know what you think of tradition) Nicholas knew of this family in his town that was very poor, it was a single father with 2 daughters, he was going to sell them into slavery in order to pay off bills that he owed. St. Nick, the then Bishop heard his sad story and on Christmas eve dropped two sacks of coin through his window and saved the girls from slavery. That is how the story originated, at least that is one version, he is a saint and was a Catholic Bishop. Its sad that somehow he got replaced by a fat man with reindeer...

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