Why Santa is More Beloved than Christ
While perusing Amazon's music selection the other day, I saw Katy Perry's new single, Cozy Little Christmas. I laughed a little, because Katy, Christmas, and Cozy have literally nothing in common besides the alliteration. But something else struck me--many of the once wholesome things are increasingly tainted by materialism and sex, or they are simply stripped of their initial value. As an easy target, consider what happens the day after our Thanksgiving. #Greed
The devil knows he can't offer anything of real value, but he still makes an offer. He said to Jesus, "I'll give you all the kingdoms of the world, if only you'll worship me," (Matthew 4:9). He offered this knowing Christ came to establish an eternal kingdom, one for which the increase of his government and of peace there would be no end (Isaiah 9:6ff).
Jesus resisted whatever pitiful attempt to persuade him existed, because he knew that his own kingdom was like a treasure hidden in a field, for which, if found, one should give up everything in his earthly existence to obtain (Matthew 13:44). Jesus resisted the cheap trade every time; yet we almost always fall for it.
I think we fall for it because there is one advantage Satan's gifts have over Christ's, and I presume it is why he's done so well in business. It is that, for the most part, he offers that which is visible.
Westerners scoff at the gods of the East--the Egyptian's Amun-Ra, the Greek's Zeus, the Hindu's Vishnu. We scoff because stone deities are foolish. But our folly and our god is perhaps worse. At least Eastern gods make some attempt to establish an ethic, though an incomplete and faulty one. At least those gods claim to provide something transcendent, something beyond immediate and cheap gratification. The gods of the West, on the contrary, bear no name, no moral standard, no future hope, no transcendent purpose, no compass, no immutable standing, no authentic joy, no inherent authority. The gods of the West are those things which provide immediate pleasure to the body, and they make no promise about the future. And they make no attempt to establish an ethic. This is, I believe, why virtually everybody loves Santa Claus but the majority is offended by Jesus Christ. Let me explain.
For Christmas in our day, two merciful gift-givers are pinned against one another. Here's an oversimplification: One gift-giver, Jesus, gives eternal life; the other, St. Nick, gives big screen televisions, jewelry, or any other sort of fleshly fulfillment (Think: What is being watched on TV? Why was the jewelry purchased?). Which is the greater gift? Obviously eternal salvation. Which gift do most choose? Katy Perry's single has the answer. To her sexual lover she says, "You're the reason for the season." What a twist on the old adage! Santa, Christmas, the holidays--they've become another secular way to make merry. On her album cover, the word "Christ" is literally present, buried between now meaningless words and a scandalous photo, but Christ is nowhere to be found. What happened?
Well, as I said above, if a gift is visible, it's already got an advantage. But the issue involves more than merely the gift--it's also about the cost of the gifts. If a man can be mostly content at a bargain rate, he'll forgo the pricier option most every time. In this case, secular Christmas means free stuff; and further, though the so-called Santa wants good boys and girls, there's no book defining such goodness. This is why rotten kids still get a tree full of presents; crooked businessmen still get new cars; and adulterous spouses still get diamond earrings.
Christ, on the other hand, says, "You can't be my disciple if you don't deny your whole self, pick up your cross, and walk in the same heavy steps I did." And those who can't be Christ's disciples inherit none of the gifts he brought. There is only one name under heaven given among men by which we can be saved, Jesus (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the only way, the only truth, the only life, and no man can attain to the Father except through him (John 14:6). Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly, but he doesn't cheaply give it to those who trample his Biblically defined holiness.
Now, of course, Santa isn't real, and every adult knows this. He's an idea we gather around once a year to feel something inside. But make no mistake, there is a realness to Santa. Even after I learned he doesn't exist, his appeal never faded. He's a jolly figure who gives stuff at no moral cost; he brings memories, laughter, family, and glad music. He gives us exactly what we want without any demands. We want him to be real.
[I like Santa and the whole Christmas theme; but I hate the attention we grant to a fanciful figure, while rejecting the very real Savior of the world.]
In a distant yesteryear, men and women said to one another, "Merry Christmas," which actually meant, "Be of good cheer in your remembrance of Christ." The name Christ was the stimulating factor in humanity's cheer. Christ's name was associated with family, laughter, joy, peace, and goodness. And naturally so, because he's the inventor of those things! What a tragedy to have forgotten that. Now, only a faint whisper of those truths remain in a few lyrics and on a few decorated lawns.
In your home, who will be most beloved? For me, it's about who brings the greater gift. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).