Author: Conrade Yap
Date: 22 Dec 2010
MAIN POINT: Christians need not blast 'Santa Claus' away with theological cannons. Joining in the celebration with non-Christians does not necessarily mean a Christian 'believes' or worships Santa. They can participate in good Christmas fun without compromising their faith. They can point others toward the more important things in life. They can display the grace of Jesus in giving and forgiving.
"Do you believe in Santa Claus?"
Movies like "Miracle on 34th Street," "Call Me Mrs Claus," and "The Santa Claus Suit" all direct viewers toward a belief in Santa Claus. Every Christmas, the story repeats itself. Christmas time is synonymous with Santa Claus time. Greetings of "Happy Holidays" are fast replacing "Merry Christmas." In secular societies, modern Christmas songs about Santa Claus rival traditional Christmas carols about Jesus. Here is a short list:
- "Santa Claus is coming to town;"
- "I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus."
- "Here comes Santa Claus."
- "Santa Baby."
- "Hey Santa!"
If we include the songs surrounding Christmas trees and symbols surrounding Santa Claus sleigh, animals and all, the list is even longer.
- "Jingle Bells"
- "O Christmas tree"
- "Deck the Halls.."
Maybe it is because marketers are trying to create some kind of a Christmas spirit for people to join in the shopping frenzy. Maybe it is to make children happy, and make the child in each of us, happy too. Each December, practically all TV stations will be screening movies with Christmas themes behind them. No doubt, newer and snappier shows about Santa Claus are outstripping older and more traditional themes on Jesus and Christianity. For Christians, what are we to make of Santa Claus? How should Christians respond to the increased secularization of Christmas?
Unfortunately, some Christians take the wrong extreme. On one end, some Christians have gone on the offensive each year, attacking 'Santa Claus' as satanic or myth. On the other end, others have become so clueless about the Christmas story themselves that they know St Nicholas and the reindeer more than the birth of Jesus! Christians can celebrate Christmas amid the flood of red-nosed reindeers or over-sized fellows in red costumes.
Whether we like it or not, the world we live in is not going to give the traditional Christmas message any bigger stage than what they give Santa. If Christians dismiss Santa Claus too quickly, we may miss the hopes and joys secular people attach to them. Worse, they may not even take Christians seriously anymore, seeing them more as killjoys rather than Jesus' disciples. Christians need to adopt a more open approach. They need not be too combative about Santa Claus and the rising consumerism surrounding Christmas. Instead, they can co-exist with these images without allowing themselves to be absorbed into them. How can we do that?
I have three brief responses to suggest to you my readers. In all these responses, we can still join in the festive mood without becoming grouchy about the commercialization of Christmas. We can participate in common goodness without dismissing the heart of giving. We may disagree with the costume and the character, but we can surely agree about the spirit of giving and receiving. While many shows and commercials parade products and things as gifts, perhaps Christians can see Christmas time as an opportunity to showcase and redirect people toward the greater gifts.
1) Join in the Spirit of Giving
Christmas is indeed a time for giving and sharing. The 'Santa Claus' symbol tends to disarm people into a free spirit of giving and receiving. The Ho-Ho-Ho syndrome gives people an opportunity to hang loose and relax. I know of many companies that organize year end parties and Christmas lunches. Rather than avoiding these 'secular' events for more religious types, I think it is important for Christians to remain involved in their marketplace, regardless of the Santa Claus images. Celebrating the occasion without mentioning Jesus literally, does not mean Christians are not witnessing for Christ in the marketplace. In fact, if Christians participate with open hearts, people will welcome Christians more. Do unto others what we want others to do unto us. If others see Christians accepting non-Christians for who they are, non-Christians will accept Christians for who they are. Christians can still join in the giving atmosphere without compromising their faith.
2) Guide Toward Desire the Greater Things
Kids have been conditioned to expect presents. The taller the kid grows, the taller the expectations. We may even dismiss some of the modern expectations as overly materialistic. This attachment to things will not change overnight. There is not going to be an immediate paradigm shift under normal circumstances. However, Christians can still be tactful about directing people's attention toward the greater things.
"But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)
What about asking for things as follows; the greater gifts. I want the following:
- "I ask to be a peacemaker on earth and to do goodwill to men."
- "I ask to be a part of the solution instead of part of the problem."
- "I ask to contribute toward reducing poverty, world hunger, and the underprivileged in society."
- "I ask goodness and mercy to flow from me among the communities I interact with."
- "I ask to play a part in fair play and justice in society."
- "I ask for the gift of love, joy and peace that I can share with the world around me."
- "I ask for boldness, courage and faith to be willing to do all of the above, with God enabling me."
As Christians in the marketplace, after gaining the confidence and the friendship with non-Christians, we can become more credible witnesses to win an opportunity to point people toward good works. Hopefully, in the process, they will catch a glimpse of Jesus through us.
Relationships remain a key fabric of society. In our emotional roller-coaster ride, the heart is constantly in motion. It is not easy for two persons to be in sync with each other every time they meet. A lot of grace is needed to understand. A lot of space is required for people to be rightly understood. When in doubt, forgive. When misunderstood, give others the benefit of the doubt. Christians can lead the way in doing all of these in their Christian witness. The question: "What does it mean to be human?" applies to all people. While the world remains fixated on things and material gifts that they can grab, Christians can choose to fix their minds on things that matter more to God.
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32)
In summary, Christians should not dismiss the notion of Santa Claus. After all, most secular people know that Santa Claus is more myth than anything else. Let me summarize the three key points. Firstly, they may not even place Santa Claus on a higher plane in the first place. Hence, Christians need not be too offended, and are free to join in the decent fun, with or without the plump man in Red suit. Secondly, Christians are in an excellent position to point non-Christians toward the more important things in life. Since people are already in a spirit of giving, why not suggest them to give toward the greater gifts, and perhaps the Giver of all good gifts? Thirdly, the mark of the Christian is demonstrated by an attitude of grace and forgiveness. This single factor is perhaps the most powerful witness any Christian can be.
May this Christmas period, with or without Santa Claus, be another opportunity to demonstrate the spirit of Jesus in all that we do. In our hearts, we know that Santa Claus is no competition to Jesus, for the day will come when all the world's santas will bow their knees to the Son of God.
Sabbathwalk wishes all readers a Blessed Christmas.
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