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Ho-ho-ho or No-no-no?!
I will never forget the excitement and anticipation that boiled up in my blood as a child on the night of Christmas Eve. My family would gather together at my grandparents. We would stuff our faces with grandma’s Cream-Corn and Chicken-and-Dumplings, Dianne’s Mac-N-Cheese, Becky’s special Pea-Salad, and Brenda and Dennis, well, they brought themselves (we considered them, along with Donnie, John (Dad), and Charles, the entertainment).
It never failed, as soon as presents were unwrapped and the clutter was cleaned out of the living room, all of us kids would run outside, gaze into the starry sky, and hope to see Santa and all his amazing reindeer (except the one that ran over grandma). We loved this time of year. It was family, football, and food. It was full of Christmas cheer and hungry anticipation for Santa to make his way to our town.
Sadly, many American-evangelical Christians have removed Santa from their family’s celebration. Many families insist that Santa competes with the real reason-of-the-season: the birth of Jesus. In an attempt to reform the world’s most anticipated holiday, evangelicals have largely denounced the belief in the fat guy who wears a red suit, in hopes of being honest parents who teach their kiddo’s the truth regarding this holiday: That guy, the one in the red-suit, he doesn’t exist. When the world is cheerfully shouting, “Ho-ho-ho!” the church is shouting back, “No-no-no!”
As an evangelical-Christian pastor, I have decided that my approach will be much different. In no way do I desire to be creative and “reinvent the wheel,” but I do desire to teach and instruct truth, especially since it’s discipleship to my kids.
Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) was born in a wealthy family. His parents raised him to be a follower of Christ who lived and breathed the Word of God. In his youth, St. Nicholas lost his parents in a tragedy. Immediately, Santa Claus inherited wealth and became an independent young kid who needed no financial consultant other than the Word of God. Young Santa heeded the words of scripture and attempted to be a blessing to the “sick, suffering, poor, and less fortunate.” His deep dedication and extravagant generosity towards others lead him to soon become the young Bishop of Myra.
Diocletian, a young Roman Emperor, possessed a huge disregard for Christians. His disdain was so evident that he literally jailed Christians by the droves. It was said, “there was not enough room in jail for the thieves, murderers, and other criminals because the jail house was full of persecuted Christians.” In other words, St. Nick was jailed for generosity and belief in Jesus, while those who decapitated their enemies were warned and set free.
Once Santa was released from his cell he attended the Council of Nicaea. During the delegation at the Council of Nicaea, Arius opposed the divinity of Jesus. This great opposition led to perhaps the most generous of all the acts of good ole St. Nick – he punched Arius in the jaw. Mr. Clause went on to be a signer of the Nicene Creed, which is still recited today, acknowledging and emphatically proclaiming that Jesus is God!
Santa died on December 19 (Julian Calendar). The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration. Christian families all over the globe participated in the legacy that St. Nick left: Live and Give with Great Generosity! This was an opportunity for those who agreed with Santa Claus to remember the One who reigned as dear in his life, Jesus Christ, and to remember that as recipients of such extravagant generosity and grace, now we can freely be generous givers to others! How divine and sovereign is it that when Santa Claus, who fought hard for the divinity of Christ and faithfully exhibited the generosity of Christ to the world, died, we remember his life in the same week that we remember the birth of God’s most generous gift to us: Jesus.
So, let me be clear. I do not disagree with my brothers who have decided to hush the noise of Santa Claus in their home. In fact, I have emulated many of those who have decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus by throwing a decorative birthday party. However, the tragedy in most homes who have attempted to minimize St. Nick is that they have robbed their children of knowing the truth regarding one of the worlds most renowned men, who happened to be a lover of Jesus, a fighter for His divinity, and an extravagant giver to those less fortunate. We could do ourselves much good if we decided not to eliminate Him from Christmas, but instead we insisted that part of our discipleship to our kids is that we teach them the reality and the history of the white-bearded man who knew what it meant to generously give out of an overflow of the gospel.
Generosity is the mark of a citizen of heaven. It is one of the most identifiable characteristics of a child of God. Knowing what Christ has done for us at the cross motivates giving. We must remember that before we give Him anything, He gave us everything. Jesus didn’t give grudgingly, but generously. He didn’t give out of compulsion, but compassion. He didn’t give out of bitterness, but benevolence. He didn’t suffer and die reluctantly, but willingly. Jesus is generous. The gospel is the story of Jesus’ generosity. When we give we look more like God.
This Christmas Eve, as you gaze into the starry sky, remember that Santa is not just a fairy-tale cookie monster who devours your cookies, glass of milk, and leaves you a note with some presents. He was a real guy- a real lover of Jesus. His legacy lives on today not because he was seeking fame or fortune, but because he gave all that he had out of an overflow of what God has given Him. So, Christian, when you hear the jolly “Ho-ho-ho” do not shout back, “No-no-no!”