The children could hardly contain their excitement at church last week when the sermon made mention of Santa Claus. In reality, the message turned out to be very thought-provoking: Santa is not to be confused with Jesus Christ. The topic piqued my curiosity as I initially wondered how such a mix-up could occur. Sifting through my thoughts, I realized there are several similarities between the two. I came up with the following parallels:
- On a superficial level, they are both males with beards.
- Stories have been passed down about them from generation to generation that detail the good that each has accomplished.
- Various representations portray them in a positive light — Santa’s rosy cheeks, round belly, and jolly countenance are universally known while Jesus is often depicted with a serene look on his face that is complemented by eyes that can penetrate the soul.
- They are giving and generous by nature. Santa grants wishes and Jesus gave not only of Himself, but continues to bestow blessings and grace.
- Despite wide-reaching popularity, not everyone believes in or respects them. This is the season of giving, merriment, and family gatherings. This is also the time when self-proclaimed Scrooges make themselves known. The juxtaposition is lost on very few. Likewise, Jesus had many followers, but non-supporters felt threatened by His presence and mission, ultimately persecuting Him. And there are those who will make fun of you for your ways, whether you choose to believe in Santa and/or follow Christ.
- Neither could accomplish their work alone. Santa has nine reindeer (according to the popular addition of Rudolph) to assist him in his rounds, delivering presents across the globe whereas Jesus’ twelve apostles helped to spread the word of God and bear witness to His teachings.
- Many who are down on their luck hope for a Christmas miracle while Jesus himself performed miracles.
- Santa enlists the help of Rudolph and his bright nose to light and prepare his way and Jesus literally is the light of the world.
- Santa disperses toys to everyone alike. Jesus is equally inclusive, welcoming anyone who will take up his or her cross and follow Him. All they ask is that you make yourself worthy of them.
- Santa and Jesus motivate others to be the best versions of themselves so that they may be rewarded with presents and know eternal bliss, respectively.
- We await their return. While we may not know the hour nor the day of Jesus’ second coming, we anticipate Santa’s more frequent annual appearances.
This list is not intended to be exhaustive of the many similarities between Santa and Jesus; however, it is enlightening.
There are some vital lessons to be gleamed from the comparison between Santa and Jesus. As previously discussed, we seek to make ourselves worthy of presents dispensed at the hands of Santa and eternal bliss at the time of Jesus’s second coming. Yet, it is a lot easier to find ourselves on Santa’s “nice list.” Just because we earn a spot on the nice list one year, though, does not guarantee we will achieve the same status the following year.
Well, this is not how it works with Jesus. We do not get to have a bad year plagued by temptation and earthly pleasures then work to find favor with God the following year, knowing full well we may once again spiral into what is to become a vicious cycle. The reality is that one’s relationship with Jesus is not founded upon the principle of quid pro quo. We must always actively seek to be on Jesus’ nice list. This idea can be taken a step further: being good one day does not mean we get to demand of God all that we wish. While we can certainly offer up our thoughts in prayer to God, it is essential to understand the value in praying so that our wants and needs may align with the will of God. Prayer is not a time to be selfish, dishing out bargaining chips or giving God ultimatums.
It is just as important, however, to emphasize the fact that Jesus is NOT Santa. We may celebrate and honor them both on December 25th, but Santa has become increasingly associated with secular notions. And, unfortunately, Santa seems to be gaining momentum at Jesus’ expense as he holds more sway and public opinion. After all, you may be teased but no one is physically persecuted for believing in Santa! What is more, we are far from politically correct if we wish someone a “Merry Christmas!” even though Christmas is the actual time when we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Imagine being chastised for telling a family member or friend “Happy Birthday” on his or her special day.
To conclude, I want to return to the example of the children in church who were so excited to hear Santa’s name. Their excitement and curiosity are things that tend to be put to the wayside as we become adults. Do you remember trying to stay up all night as a child on Christmas Eve in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Santa? It is this same excitement and curiosity that I encourage you to re-invest in as you celebrate the anniversary of Jesus’ birth and prepare for Jesus’ second coming. Be ever-vigilant; we do not get multiple opportunities to embrace Jesus’ return the way we do with Santa’s yearly visits. Remember, strive to always find yourself on His nice list.