Over the last few weeks, we’ve looked at several characters whose stories influence our theology and our relationship with God, including the Tooth Fairy, the Great Pumpkin, and genies. Today, we’ll wrap up with some thoughts about Santa Claus. Our ideas about Santa rest heavily on Clement Moore’s 1822 poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and artist Thomas Nast’s drawings published in Harper’s Weekly beginning in 1863 with “A Christmas Furlough.” By the turn of the 20th century, Norman Rockwell’s art added the final refinements to the Santa Claus we know today.
Our ideas about Santa are so widespread and ingrained in us that it can sometimes be difficult to untangle those from what we know about God.
Santa’s job is to give us the things on our list. It doesn’t really matter how outlandish those requests are, either. Of course, if Santa doesn’t come through, we are left bitter with our confidence shaken. However, we often expect God to deliver in the same way. The error we make though is that God is not obligated to grant us the desires of our hearts. Instead, He pours out His blessings according to the desires of HIS heart. As our relationship with Him grows and deepens, our desires become ever more aligned with His.
If we’re good, Santa gives us what we want. Santa never quite resolves that conundrum of how greed and self-indulgence are good, but that’s a topic for another day. Now the song tells us to be “good for goodness’ sake,” but let’s be honest … we’re being good as a means to an end. It’s not genuine goodness but adopting a behavior to manipulate someone. I think the technical term for that is hypocrisy. Jesus called out the religious types of His day for it, recorded in Mark’s gospel. He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. Mark 7:6
In the end, goodness doesn’t really matter much. Nobody’s perfect, but nobody’s bad enough that Santa passes them over. And we figure the omissions from our list are Santa’s fault, not ours. The truth is, “being good” is the last thing on our minds on December 26 or March 23 or July 7 or October 21. In contrast, God in His grace reaches down to us while we are sinners and He saves and transforms us. Transforms means He changes us. One of those changes is that Christlikeness becomes our priority. If it isn’t, we need to examine ourselves. Obedience to His commands is outward evidence of that transformation. Besides, it would be an affront to His holiness and His justice to ignore all our sins.
When we don’t make the effort to know God and His ways, we can be influenced by the culture around us and get a distorted picture of God. When that happens we miss the awesome truth about His grace and His great love for us.
(If you’ve read these posts over the last few weeks and decided maybe you don’t know God as well as you’d like, I hear you. I’ve been working on a project all year that will help you deepen your relationship with God and connect with Him in a more intimate, meaningful way. I know it helped me. Interested? Great! In just a couple of weeks, I’ll be ready to share it with you. I can’t wait!)