For a Tradition I Recommend Santa Claus3
Years ago P.J. O'Rourke began a book by comparing Santa Claus to God. First, he referred to God's austerity: He rules by law and sets extremely high standards to get into His heavenly country club. He continued:
Santa Claus is another matter. He’s cute. He’s nonthreatening. He’s always cheerful. And he loves animals. He may know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, but he never does anything about it. He gives everyone everything they want without thought of a quid pro quo. He works hard for charities, and he’s famously generous to the poor. Santa Claus is preferable to God in every way but one: There’s no such thing as Santa Claus.
Now I want to be extremely clear. I love Santa Claus. Santa gives us an excuse to give and receive gifts. He lets us make one day a year magical for children. You never get too old to sit on his lap and whisper in his ear. When our kids were small I did it all: made ashy footprints in the living room, made deer tracks in the snow, even put a stuffed deer outside the boys window.
If you are looking for a way to be happy and make others happy, choose Santa.
But, please do not confuse the Son of God being born of the Virgin Mary with a Christmas tradition. A tradition is something you celebrate once a year that makes you happy. The birth of the Son of God is infinitely more than that.
While no one over the age of 12 believes in Santa Claus, true Christians all over the world actually believe in the birth of Christ. We honestly believe that he who created and sustains the universe became a baby. At the very moment he was an embryo, he also he upheld the world.
If Jesus is God in human flesh, then God has become extremely personal. God can be understood, talked to, and loved. He is not a philosophy or an idea, he is a person we must either decide to love or reject.
If Jesus is God, then our relationship with him will dominate every aspect of our lives. If we decide to enter a relationship with him it must be a submissive one. We would have to give him control of our bodies, our time, our sexuality, our money, our family, our jobs, and our identities.
In light of the overwhelming significance of the incarnation, we can have only two legitimate responses. Either we can reject it as impossible. Or we can believe it and receive him as Lord, ordering our lives around him.
The one thing we absolutely cannot do is claim to believe God became man on Christmas, and make little or nothing of it. We do not have the option of making baby Jesus into little more than a yearly tradition stashed between Thanksgiving turkey and the Easter bunny. If that is all you are looking for, choose Santa.
But if you want the hope that there is another better world which has broken into history, if you want to believe God is not only real but understandable and interested in humanity, if you want life and love to have purpose and dignity, then consider Jesus. Not as a once a year tradition, but as an every moment of every day relationship.
If you would like more to think about regarding Christmas and the claims of the incarnation, you might want to listen to the sermon attached to this link.