Last Christmas I had a bit of a whinge about the place Santa Claus plays in the Christian’s attitude towards Christmas and the way that red coated and bearded old man for many years seems to have taken over everyone’s concept of the celebration of the season.
What irks me even more is that many Churches and their leaders fail to understand the influence of this pagan character on the world and even on children of Christian parents.
Since some of my readers were not on this list back then I hope you won’t mind if I repeat myself this year, because the problem is only getting worse.
There is no doubt the story of the Incarnation – God becoming man – is tremendously significant and interesting from a number of angles. It is therefore very important for the Church to continue to remember this event.
My concern is that, while the circumstances of the birth of our Saviour ought to be celebrated by the Church, this should not be side-tracked or made confusing by the addition of a figure, whatever his noble origins, who is totally irrelevant to our Christian lives.
The Problem of Santa Claus
I am not concerned about the origin of this myth, since it is irrelevant to the issue of how people, especially children, see it today.
But I believe there has been no-one else who has managed to hijack Christmas more than Santa Claus himself.
Despite the best intentions of any Christian parent, Santa Claus to a young child is a god-like character who can travel faster than light, know everything about your life, behaviour and even your thoughts. He can punish sinful actions, organise to visit the whole population of the world in a single night and lives in isolation from the rest of us, at the north pole.
In other words, to a young child, he can be just like what he may understand about God, or at least like the God his / her parents have been telling him about.
Not only that, but to the child the parents actually seem to believe in this red-coated intruder into children’s bedrooms in the middle of the night.
Any experienced Christian teacher of young children will tell you Santa Claus can take over from God, especially at Christmas time, and sow the seeds for the later rejection of BOTH of them.
I say the Church has no business promoting Santa Claus because it will always be at the expense of the Christ-child. Jesus was born as a human so He could qualify to save us. May the Church save us from the impotent substitute called Santa Claus.
What are we Celebrating?
To the world, Christmas is a time for giving, getting, relaxing, holidaying, being with family and running amuk, depending on your preference. Any glance at a newspaper poll will tell you that.
The tragedy is that, often when a clergyman is asked to give his interpretation of Christmas, it is much the same! Last year in the Melbourne Herald-Sun only the Roman Catholic archbishop, of all leaders asked, gave a clear indication of what God did for us at the first Christmas, by becoming a human being.
My conclusion was that all of the other major Church leaders had quivered and shrivelled up at the thought of having to defend their faith in public.
What a bunch of spineless weaklings! I have no respect for a Church leader who does not use the Christmas season to unequivocally promote the ‘reason for the season’. And that reason is not some tiny, helpless baby in a manger. It is that God had made provision for our sinfulness which keeps us out of heaven.
In other words, the main reason for Christmas is the sacrifice which Jesus made at the first Easter! Wake up you leaders.
I have had the dubious privilege of participating in a number of Church Christmas celebrations over the years as a conductor, a musician, a speaker and a pew-sitter.
In the best ones the Christmas story was told in music or drama and words, after which the ultimate purpose for Jesus’ coming was spelt out clearly.
As for ‘Carols by Candlelight’-type events, these shows are usually run by totally secular groups and if a Christian minister gets 5 minutes to talk he is lucky.
But what can you do? I guess the best thing is to grasp any opportunity to proclaim the true spirit of Christmas if you get the chance.
But Church leaders – please don’t fool yourselves and your members by pretending that a Christmas concert or so-called ‘extravaganza’ which incorporates Santa Claus and pagan or secular carols followed by a weakly-proclaimed gospel, can adequately present the real Christian message.
Your aim may be to try and ‘extend your influence’ in the community, but what are you really achieving for the Kingdom of God?
So – Should the Church Celebrate Christmas?
Every time we worship we should remember God’s provision of His Son.
But I believe the Church should celebrate the Christmas event because it is important that every-body, both in and out of the Church, understands what it is and why it happened.
But all attempts to make it relevant to our society will fail dismally if we try to dress it up with Santa Claus and as just a time for family, for giving to the poor and underprivileged, etc, etc.
Mankind’s sin is the reason God sent His Son at Christmas. Not ‘to show us how to live’, or to ‘get us to be nice to each other.’
Jesus came to this earth to DIE for us. We must NEVER forget that.