My children loathe Santa Claus. And I’m OK with that. I know that makes me un-American to some degree, but I can live with it. My kids aren’t taking a stand against Santa for moral reason….they’re genuinely terrified of him. Bye the way, I noticed at our annual Church Christmas party that my kids weren’t the only ones…….Karsten almost clawed Kolbee’s eyes out when Kolbee tried to get him on Santa’s lap. Let’s face it….it’s not everyday you encounter a jolly man with a white beard and long hair, who wears a red suit and a silly hat. It’s kind of intimidating to some kids. The way Santa looks is scary enough…..but when my kids heard that Santa would be breaking into our house after we were asleep, it was just more than they could handle. A couple of years ago Andrew was so nervous on Christmas Eve he couldn’t get to sleep….so you know what I did? I told him Santa wasn’t real. That year, our church Santa was Mary Jo’s brother Sonny….so for the next couple of years anytime someone mentioned Santa, Andrew would say Santa is really named Sonny and he lives in Kansas City and he’s Mary Jo’s brother. Of course everyone thought Andrew was crazy.
This past Saturday, the Kansas City Star had an article from a woman who has chosen not to do the Santa thing with her kids. It was a really good article (click here to read it). She said she wasn’t necessarily “anti-Santa.” She just thought there was already ONE hero at Christmas time and she didn’t see the need to introduce another one. Strangely enough, many people seem to be irritated with her and her kids. HOW DARE THEY PUT JESUS AHEAD OF SANTA!
To be honest, I’m glad my kids don’t like Santa. It makes things easy for me as a parent. Some people enjoy the time their kids spend in “childhood imagination.” It’s sad when the kids get too old to believe in Santa. I can understand that. It’s hard to see your kids grow up. When Andrew decided he didn’t like Santa, I could have fought for Santa’s role in his life. I just didn’t see the point. He didn’t want to believe in someone who isn’t real, and who steals Jesus’ thunder at Christmas anyway. I’m glad he doesn’t believe in Santa. But I DESPARATELY want him to believe in Jesus.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter too much whether your kids or grandkids believe in Santa or not. In Santa’s case, the consequences for disbelief are not eternal. But with Jesus it’s a different story. Apart from Christ we perish. Apart from Christ our earthly life is pretty much worthless. Apart from Christ there is no REAL Christmas. Santa is optional….Jesus is mandatory.
I think this whole issue ties in to last Sunday’s sermon entitled “Thou Shall NOT Love the World” from 1 John 2:15-17. Of course John didn’t mean we shouldn’t love people, or the planet……he meant the sinful system that exists in our “world.” Here’s the definition I gave Sunday morning for “world” in this context: The sinful and Godless attitude and lifestyle that permeates our planet because of Satan’s influence and man’s depravity. The world is a messed up and sinful place….and we are not supposed to love it. We SHOULD desire to see it changed. And we SHOULD desire to see it saved. BUT, we should NOT love the world and desire to become like them in their sin.
For the Christian, there is always the tension of being “IN the world, but not OF the world.” How do you stay holy and pure, yet still be a witness to the sinful culture without being tainted by them. Some would say to just immerse yourself in the world and become just like them….then try to win them to Christ. Fat chance. And besides, Paul wrote two of his longest epistles refuting that type of thinking (1 & 2 Corinthians). Others would go to the other extreme. Have NOTHING to do with the culture since it’s so depraved anyway. But the problem there is two-fold. First, how do you remove from a culture that’s all around you? People like the Amish have tried, and in many ways their witness is very noble. But you can’t really escape the culture can you? Tragically, the Amish recently found that out all too painfully. The second problem with this thinking is that God doesn’t call us to leave the world….he calls us to be lights unto it. For the Biblical Christian, there’s only one real option….you must learn to be a light in the world….without becoming like the world. It’s a hard line to walk….and it’s impossible without the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
Christians will encounter millions of situations in their life in which they’ll have to decide how to be light without joining the darkness. Sometimes you’ll have to take a stand that the world simply won’t like or understand. The lady in the KC Star article is one example. Her neighbors were aghast that her kids didn’t believe in Santa Claus. Following Christ won’t win you a lot of friends in our world. But following Christ will require you to try and reach those messed up neighbors for the sake of the gospel. How do you do that without selling out? How do you live in the world and be a witness to the world without becoming like the world? I think ultimately Jesus provides the answer: "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven”. (Matthew 5:16) Your light shines because it’s different than the darkness. And the world WILL NOTICE you’re different….and when they finish insulting you, and making fun of you, and hating you for it…..they may come to the point where they “glorify your Father in Heaven.” They may even want to know the reason for the “hope that is within you.” (1 Peter 3:15) And you tell them the glorious truth of the gospel. Ironically, the only way to win the culture is by being COUNTER-cultural…..otherwise you’re SO MUCH like the world, you can’t really influence it. Jesus ate and drank with sinners….but he called them to turn from their sin…that’s COUNTER-cultural. As Christians we should be looked at by the world as oddities. We may be the strangest people in town….but NO ONE loves like we do. NO ONE cares like we do. NO ONE lives like we do. NO ONE acts like we do. At least that’s how it SHOULD be. And if it is….then even the lost souls of the world should be able to see Christ in us.
I hope you all have a Merry Christmas….and seek the Lord’s will in how He wants you to be a light IN the world….without becoming a burned out lamp OF the world.