“You better watch out,
You better not cry,
you better not pout, I’m telling you why….
Santa Claus is coming to town…
Ever wonder how our modernized Santa Claus ended up with many of the same attributes as God? Not only some attributes, but Santa also has the same judgmental, “you’ll get what you deserve” attitude that many Christians mistakenly believe about our Father God.
I think our modern, commercial, very American Santa, is a bit of a stalker. He watches us when we are sleeping, and knows when we’re awake? For a jolly fat guy who is supposed to love children and bring them their most desired gifts, his love seems rather conditional and based solely on a child’s performance.
Our modern Santa is a total contrast to the real St Nicholas. We know very little about St. Nicholas and legends about him abound. He was born in A.D. 280 in what is now modern Turkey, to Nona and Epiphanius. His parents were neither poor, nor rich, but devoted Christians during a time of persecution. He was named after, and educated by his uncle Nicholas, who was a Priest. His parents died while he was quite young and left him a modest inheritance. He followed in his uncles footsteps and also became a Priest. History tells us that at one time he was imprisoned for his faith.
He became a legend for championing the cause for the poor and needy. As is typical for Christian legends, much about him was paganized, while paganized pieces about him became Christianized. His legend grew to include various methods of transportation to serve the poor, and his legend was carried worldwide. At first banned by the Puritans, the Dutch colony would later keep St. Nicholas alive. Our first written record of him dates back to December 23, 1773, almost one-hundred-fifty years after the Dutch brought him to New York City. Interesting to note, the tradition of the Dutch is to exchange gifts one week preceding Christmas, keeping the day of Christs’ birth separate and holy.
St. Nicholas pointed to Christ, and he had the heart of Christ in his service to the poor and needy. He didn’t reward the good and punish the bad, but he sought to reflect the love of the Christ, by caring for the needs of the poor.
This is the first year I have really embraced Advent, and in doing so, I have embraced the anticipation and reverence of what the birth of the God-Man means to me, and to humanity. I think I have a tiny taste of what the Jews must have felt as they waited for the promised Messiah. Yet, so many looked right into His eyes, yet never saw Him; listened to Him speak, but never understood His words.
So it is with so many Christians today.
Just like Santa Claus, we come to Him believing that He will “reward” those who believe, yet they live in fear that if they do something wrong, He will remove all of His promised gifts.
He will remove Himself.
I can’t help but wonder if our Americanized/ modernized version of God and Santa Claus have influenced by each other.
Our society is performance oriented – much of the world is. You have to strive to get an education, strive to get a job, strive to get promotions, strive to make a good salary. Persecution of minorities, and majorities abound… The list goes on and on.
We come to Christ like children, eager to learn about the God who accepts us as we are, and loves us unconditionally. But all too soon, performance requirements enter in – either placed upon us by our peers, church, or by ourselves. We learn the bible and in our own interpretations of the scriptures, work towards becoming what we think we now have to become.
We forget what the story is really about. We forget who we are, and who we are in Christ.
We begin to fear that God is displeased with our performance. Maybe now, I am on His naughty list, maybe I need to go to the altar and get it right, or work harder at changing who I am. Maybe I got the wrong tree.
We are given the free gift of Christ but our nature to strive takes over. We are set up as young children to “be good” or be left out.
God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden totally accepted and at peace. All of life was a gift to them.
They didn’t need to work, compete, strive, or perform.
They knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loved them, wholly, and completely.
Then that all ended, and when it did, life was no longer lived as a gift. Sin brought in the pain of strife, work, competition, death, fear, rejection, performance…
For thousands of years all of humanity held their breath as they waited for the promised Messiah to come, and change the rules that were set in motion on that terrible day. One day, born in a stable, it happened – Immanuel. God with us.
Jesus Christ came to take away the barrier of that prevented us from living our lives as a gift.
The effects of sin – the toil of living in this fallen, difficult world will be with us until the end of the time, but the spiritual work is abolished!
From his birth in a humble barn, to serving, healing, feeding, caring for, and teaching others, He lived a life of simple humility. As St. Nicholas pointed to Jesus, the Christ pointed to the love of the Father. He modeled being connected to the Father simply by who He was.
And then He told us we also are children of God, and that Abba, Daddy, our Father – adores us. Whether or not we are good or bad, we are accepted in the Beloved when we place our total trust in Him.
All around the world we see the word “Believe” in reference to Santa Claus, but God is saying to us “believe.”
The cross is not covered by a Santa’s hat, but by a crown of thorns.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Ever.
His gift to us this Holy season is His presence.