Santa Claus and his part in Christmas

I received an e-mail this week from a colleague. It was titled “Why Santa is Evil.”

I was a bit shocked. I am kind of fond of the jolly old fellow myself. It made me aware for the first time just how many people deeply resent the commercialization of Christmas.

Having been a lifelong supporter of Santa and since he is far too busy right now to respond personally, I feel it is my obligation to take up his defense. So I will answer each allegation the best I can.

1. Santa places materialism above the true reason for the holiday. We live in a material world. God created this material world. He didn’t give us physical life to suffer. He gave us life so we could live it abundantly. The point is not to disavow the material world, but simply to keep it in its proper perspective and not to make idols of our material possessions.

2. Santa teaches that you don’t have to work to get things. Some jolly fat man will come in and give it to you. This would be called grace. When the successful rich man asked Jesus what he could do to earn his way into heaven, Jesus told him it was easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to earn his way into heaven. You don’t “earn” your way into heaven. It is given to you by the grace of God. It is a gift, just like the gifts from Santa. We try to be good because we love Santa and want to please him, but we inevitably fail. But Santa forgives us and brings us toys on Christmas anyway. This unconditional love inspires us to try even harder to be good. This theme should sound familiar to Christians.

3. Santa teaches children they should be good for some reward rather than because it’s simply the correct thing to do. Every kid knows he’s been bad just as every man knows he is a sinner. Yet we are still rewarded with eternal blessings just because we believe. This teaches us the fundamental truth of Christianity – it is not earned through good works but given to us even though we don’t deserve it. This is why kids love Santa. He comes on Christmas anyway because they believe.

4. Santa teaches poor children that although they have been good all year they still get nothing, yet the child who has been a brat all year at school but who has parents of means gets all the toys in the world. Shows Santa, if real, is quite unfair and not up to the hype. As Paul said, not one of us is worthy. Paul referred to himself as the chief of sinners. There is not one child out there who has been good all year long. As for rich kids getting more presents, that doesn’t bring them more joy. King Solomon, who had everything, lamented that none of it mattered. All glory went to God. All his possessions were nothing more than dust.

5. Teaches children, once they realize Santa is a hoax, that it is OK to lie – their parents lied to them for years about Santa. I am completely lost on this one. Santa a hoax? Who perpetuates such nonsense? I am 55 years old and I can guarantee you that Santa Claus is real. First of all, I have seen Santa on innumerable occasions with my own eyes. As a child, I sat in his lap many times and told him what I wanted for Christmas. He pretty much delivered every time. I never got everything I wanted but I always got far more than I deserved. Just last week, I saw Santa at Highland Village. Who are these people that go around talking like Santa is not real? Are they blind? He’s all over the place – in magazines, television, the Web, in movies and newspapers. Apparently some people just don’t get out very much.

When Jesus commanded his disciples to spread the good news, he told them to use salt and light. Paul also referenced salt, imploring Christians to season their words with salt.

Salt is a spice. It spices up food, making the food more enjoyable to eat. Light illuminates, making a dark world bright and full of color.

Santa adds salt and light to Christmas for our children. Santa makes this time of celebrating the birth of Jesus more fun, more colorful. If there is one fundamental aspect to Santa Claus, it is that of unearned gifts. Is not that the essence of Christianity?

God tried making a list and checking it twice. That didn’t turn out too well. In his creative glory, God came up with a new plan. He, through his son, became human and shed his own blood for the forgiveness of our sins. It was the ultimate gift from the ultimate benefactor. We didn’t deserve it.

If anything, Santa is a proxy for Jesus, teaching young children in a simple way the meaning of unearned grace. As they grow older, their fond memories of Christmas Day joy and presents under the tree can make them better relate to Christ’s promise of everlasting life. You just have to believe with all your might.

Editor’s note: Wyatt Emmerich is the publisher of the Northside Sun and of Emmerich Newspapers.