The most wonderful time of year is here. The Christmas countdown is nearly complete. Advent calendars almost empty, presents wrapped and placed under the brightly lit tree. No matter where you go, you are reminded the festive season is upon us.
There's just one thing missing from Christmas: Christ.
Yes, there may be the odd manger or reference to a virgin birth, but Rudolph the red nose reindeer draws a larger crowd than the neighbouring nativity scene. Santa's spot at the mall has a longer line than that leading to church. Children's eyes barely close on Christmas Eve, the thrill of presents mesmerisingly within reach.
Among the madness, we forget the reason for the season. But I am certain our forgetfulness is not the heart of the issue—idolatry is. Forgetfulness and idolatry combined, however, are a lethal combination and break the first three commandments in one go.
More importantly, they blind us to our deep brokenness, inflating our egos and man-made gods. Don't believe me? Let me show you two ways that our Western, commercialised view of Christmas is insidiously dangerous to Christians and a Christ-hating world.
Firstly, Santa is exalted as an innocent fairytale, but we are maliciously misrepresenting truth when we elevate Santa to god-like status.
The mythical character of Santa, by his very nature, personifies the unique characteristics of the one true God. He is omniscient (he knows everything—who is good and bad and what gift every child desires). He is omnipresent (all the worlds' presents are delivered in one evening). He is omnipotent (how could someone who is not all powerful make reindeer fly and magically get into every house with or without a chimney?).
Let me be clear that stimulating imagination in children is not a bad thing. Playing along as your child pretends to be a princess or cowboy is not the same as imploring them to be good so the omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent Santa will bless them with material possessions.
You are not doing your child a favour by assuring them Santa is real, you are encouraging them into a false view of the world and confusing their trust in both you and their judgement of myth and reality.
When they discover that the omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent Santa is not real, what chance does the true God have?
Secondly, our view of Santa at the centre of Christmas demonstrates our deep desire for works-righteousness, but ignores that we are utterly hopeless if we trust in our own abilities.
The whole premise of Santa rests on his ability to see good works and reward them, or see bad works and withhold gifts. We love to worship Santa because he offers what we want God to do: omnisciently witness our virtuous actions and reward us tenfold, and withhold reward if we do bad things (not actively punish us though).
We have created this false god to satisfy our self-glorifying hearts and delude us of objective justice. Sadly, Santa blinds us by his own metaphorical existence that could otherwise powerfully point to Jesus Christ as true Lord.
Santa, like every other man-made idol, cannot come close to matching the character of the real God. While Santa gives you a trampoline in exchange for finishing your peas, God offers eternal, joy-abundant life without sickness, tears or death.
And with God's offer, you don't have to constantly worry whether He is keeping score and recording your every slip up.
God took on human flesh to prove that our good works are never enough to satisfy the perfect record expected of God's most significant creation—us. Jesus evidenced this by dwelling among us (both fully human and fully God), living a life of perfect obedience to God's law, and dying on a cross in substitution for the fate we deserved. This fate we will remain in if we trust in man-made gods like Santa or, more sigificantly, ourselves.
I know that if Santa were real, I would never get a single present as I naturally have a selfish and deceitful heart, from which all kinds of evil flow. But thanks be to God, he is infinitely greater than Santa.
God rightfully expects perfection from us yet covers our every imperfection through Jesus' life, death and resurrection. And instead of withholding reward, he freely offers us eternity spent in perfect community with Him.
That is the miracle of Christmas: that God would appear as a baby in a manger, live a perfect life, and be led willingly to the slaughter as a lamb—all so we would not have to trust in our good works to attain blessings.
I resolve never to buy into a Christless Christmas when Santa will always pale in comparison to the true reason for the season.
Harriet Knox lives in windy Wellington, New Zealand. She works for the Government, loves animals, and cannot function well without a gym membership. She became a Christian at University and attends Gracenet Community Church.
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