The sign read: Put Christ into Christmas this year. A young lady glanced at it momentarily, then turned to her friend and said: “Hmm! Now the Church is trying to poke her nose into Christmas” From The Merriest Christmas Book by Mark Link.
Santa Claus has become the center of Christmas. It is a wonderful myth that has grown over time—
but it is just a myth. Yet it is the heart and soul of Christmas for most Americans.
The church originally took Christmas away from the pagans. December 25th was, in Roman days, the “Feast of Saturnalia,” a celebration of the sun. What better day to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who is the light of the world and the one whom the prophet Malachi describes as “The Sun of Justice.” Christmas officially became December 25th in 354 A.D. and has been celebrated on that date ever since.
Saint Nicholas was a real person. He was a popular bishop who was imprisoned during the Roman
persecutions of Diocletian in the 4th century. Before and after his death, miracles were ascribed to the bishop. Over time St. Nicholas became a legend in the minds and hearts of people. His feast was celebrated on December 6th with gift giving, especially to children. The myth began to grow that St. Nicolas himself dispatched the children’s gifts in shoes and stockings.
Over time this legend has taken on a life of its own. In Holland, St. Nicholas was modified to “Sinter Klaas,” and when Dutch settlers came to America, they brought Sinter Klaas with them. On and on the myth grew until we have today the very powerful and pervasive myth of Santa Claus. Christians
took over a secular holiday and now the secular world has taken it back from us. The myth of Santa Claus is a good one—filled with ideas of giving, generosity, and love—but it is only a myth. Christians, however, celebrate the greatest of truths—God has been born into this world. He comes to us as a baby! It is a truth that our feeble minds never expected and can only begin to comprehend.
I like these words by the late Harry Reasoner, of CBS’s “Sixty Minutes:” Almost nobody has seen
God, and almost nobody has any real idea of what he’s like… but everyone has seen babies, and most
people like them. If God wanted to be loved as well as feared, he moved correctly here. If God wanted to be intimately a part of (humanity), he moved correctly, for the experience of birth and familyhood is our most intimate and precious experience.
So it comes beyond logic. It is either all falsehood, or it is the truest thing in the world. It is a
story of the great innocence of God the baby, God in the power of man; and it is such a dramatic shot toward the heart that if it is not true, for Christians, nothing is true.
The myth of Santa Claus doesn’t change our lives much—except to move us to spend more money and give a little bit more during this season of shopping and giving. The truth of the birth of Jesus Christ, however, will radically transform our lives.
God has come down from glory to live among us! Never could we have imagined this happening. God is above and beyond us—mysterious, holy, majestic, mighty, unapproachable, and unknowable. In the Old Testament He was hidden in clouds, shrouded by darkness, unapproachable in fire and storm.
But now human eyes see Him as a beautiful, precious baby. Human arms hold Him, nurse Him, and
care for Him. God has come near. Now He is intimate and close to all who want to know Him. In the
gift of the baby Jesus, God gives us His great love.
And just as the miracle of the birth of God in Jesus Christ happened at the first Christmas—so too
can the miracle of His birth happen in each heart that believes in Jesus. God comes near each of us and lives within us when we believe in Jesus and trust Him with our lives.
May you celebrate not only the myth of Christmas but the great truth of His birth! May the love of
God fill you and bless you!