Tag Archives: Santa Claus

The Problem with Santa Claus

For many people, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa Claus. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, they start looking forward to Jolly Old St. Nick bringing presents to all the good little boys and girls. Every shopping mall has a Santa Claus waiting for long lines of children to sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas. I’ve even known people whose only Christmas decorations in their homes are Santa themed.

Now I will admit that I have a few Santa Claus decorations and we do hang stockings to be opened on Christmas morning. We even label some family gifts as “from Santa.” The spirit of giving that surrounds Santa Claus—which started with the very first real St. Nicholas who gave presents to needy children—is wonderful.

But there is a problem with Santa Claus. The whole idea of a Jolly Old Elf bringing presents only to good boys and girls contradicts the Gospel message of Christmas. We are reminded in Christmas songs that Santa “knows if you’ve been bad or good,” and if you are bad all you get is a lump of coal.

This is the story of most major religions—that if we are good enough we will earn whatever it is we want most.

Jesus tells a different story. Immanuel, God with us, came because He loves us all whether we are good or bad. He offers salvation and eternal life to all. It’s a free gift and all we have to do is accept it to be on His list.

Santa’s list of who’s naughty and who’s nice might seem to work for making kids be good. But long ago God showed that the threat of punishment or withholding of blessings doesn’t work to make people do what is right. “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.” Romans 8:3 (NIV).

That is why for me Christmas isn’t Christmas without the Christ child and most of my Christmas decorations are nativity scenes. And my favorite Christmas songs aren’t about Santa Claus but are old standards like O Come O Come Emmanuel, O Holy Night, and Mary Did You Know?

Which is why today I want to share Jeremy Camp’s rendition of that last of these on his recently released Christmas CD.

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The Mercy of Our God Is Great

During this Christmas season, an idea for a post has been bouncing around in my head but it seemed something was missing. Today, reading a post of a fellow blogger, I came across a verse that seemed to tie the idea together. It is a great Old Testament verse showing the humility of King David and his trust in the mercy of God.

David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” 2 Samuel 24:14.

This Christmas season, I have been increasingly troubled by the prominence of Santa Claus and “giving” as the reason for Christmas. The Divine gift of salvation through the Christ child is downplayed and the jolly old elf is center stage wherever you go. But exactly what bothered me about hearing people say that the reason for Christmas is giving I couldn’t put my finger on. After all, giving is a good thing. And Santa certainly is known for giving gifts.

But with Santa there is a catch. Remember the Christmas song, “He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice. He’s gonna find out whose naughty and nice.” As the story goes, only those on the nice list are given gifts by Santa. Those on the naughty list get a lump of coal. Although Santa is jolly, he isn’t very merciful.

Jesus, on the other hand, came for all mankind. He is merciful. Just like David, I would rather fall into the hands of God, for His mercy is great. I prefer the gift of grace and mercy that Christmas promises over all the earthly treasures promised by Santa if only I am good.

This morning listening to my iPod the song “Forgiven” by Skillet came on. It is a wonderful reminder of the mercy of our Lord. My favorite part of the song is the chorus:

Now I’m in our secret place
Alone in your embrace
Where all my wrongs have been erased
You have forgiven

All the promises and lies
All the times I compromise
All the times you were denied
You have forgiven

I’ve often heard people complain about the exclusivity of Christianity, because Christians believe that only those who believe in Jesus will go to heaven. But the opportunity to accept God’s gift of mercy and grace is open to all. No one is excluded from God’s love that is in Christ, our Savior.

People exclude each other from clubs and groups. Even Santa excludes those on the naughty list from receiving gifts. We demand payback and revenge, that others get what’s coming to them. We are not merciful to our fellow human beings.

But God’s invitation is open to all. God does not demand payback and revenge, He does not demand that we get what is coming to us for our actions. Instead, He paid the price for our sins Himself so that we would know His mercy.

Long before Jesus became God incarnate, the prophet Isaiah spoke of His mercy:

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
      O Israel, the one who formed you says,
   “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
      I have called you by name; you are mine.
 When you go through deep waters,
      I will be with you.
   When you go through rivers of difficulty,
      you will not drown.
   When you walk through the fire of oppression,
      you will not be burned up;
      the flames will not consume you.
 For I am the Lord, your God,
      the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 43:1-3.

He is the Savior not only of Israel, but of all who trust in Him. At Christmas, we remember that this mighty King came to a lowly manger for the purpose of living a sinless life and then giving His life as a ransom for you and me. Just as Israel had strayed from the Lord, we all have gone astray. We don’t deserve the Lord’s mercy. But at Christmas, His mercy gives birth to hope that leads to faith.

Whether you are on Santa’s nice or naughty list, the gift of God’s mercy is yours today and always. Won’t you, like David, choose to fall into the hands of a merciful God? His love awaits your choice to enter His embrace and be forgiven.

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The Greatest Gift

As Christmas approaches and I think about shopping for family and friends, what gifts shall I buy for all of them? What do they want?

Then I think, more importantly, what do they need? What they need is the greatest gift ever given. It is the gift that the heavenly host proclaimed to the shepherds: “For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11. This King who left His throne in heaven to be a little baby, to come and live, and then die, all for our sake.

This is the gift we all need, the gift given in love. It’s not a gift we earned or were entitled to, which is what makes it the best gift of all.  Unlike the gifts that Santa brings, it is not predicated on being on the “nice” list. We do not forfeit this gift because we are on the “naughty” list. In fact, in reality we are all on the “naughty” list but God loves us nonetheless.  As Paul wrote, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

We need not give anything in return; we can just accept the gift. But somehow, just accepting this loving gift of our Creator, the gift of Himself, creates in the heart a desire to give something in return. Of course, there is nothing God needs from us. So what can we possibly give? The best gift we can give to God is ourselves and our devotion to telling others of His greatest gift.

Over the past week or so I have been listening to a lot of Christmas carols. I just love O Holy Night and What Child Is This? and O Come O Come Immanuel and Silent Night and so many others that sing the praises of this wonderful gift of Jesus, the Word made flesh. They make me smile and cry tears of joy all at the same time.

This greatest gift of all has been offered to everyone, and that includes you! Have you received it yet? It truly is the most precious gift you will ever receive.

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