Are you familiar with this question?
“Mommy, Daddy, who is Santa Claus?”
If we haven’t heard it from our children, we may remember asking it ourselves. Thus proceeds an onslaught of stories and wild tales. “Well, Santa Claus is this fat man that delivers toys to all children around the world. He slides down the chimneys, and you leave him Christmas cookies as a welcome gift.”
You hear the familiar words everywhere you go: “He’s making a list. He’s checking it twice. He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. Santa Claus is coming to town.” It becomes almost unbearable, but you must endure. Children love the festivities.
I also asked this question as a child. In my mother’s wisdom, she guaranteed me that Santa Claus did, indeed, exist — but I never left him cookies or sneaked downstairs to see him. Instead of telling me about reindeer and a fat man sliding down our chimney (which was impossible, because my house doesn’t have a chimney), mother told me where “Santa Claus” came from.
Most of you know the story of Saint Nicholas, so I will spare you the details. If you don’t know the history, please look it up. It is quite moving. Ultimately, the fictitious Santa who delivers presents to children, eats cookies, wears a red suit and laughs a very jolly “Ho Ho Ho!” is a representation of God’s unceasing grace — impossible in reality but in God’s majesty, possible. Here is a man who delivers free gifts, even though you don’t deserve them.
Even if you tell your children about the true meaning of Christmas, they may lose the message to the modern Claus. For a child, the story of Jesus Christ is distant — something untouchable from the distant past. Christmas is coming! And when children are warned to be on their best behavior for Christmas presents, that becomes their reality. Their understanding of grace is warped. Grace is not earned; it is given to the undeserving. We need to remember that no matter how hard we work, no matter how much we try, God’s grace — salvation through faith in Jesus Christ — is never earned.
Our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ have a deep understanding of this beautiful grace. They celebrate it every day without the Christmas trees, presents or cookies. They understand it so deeply that they willingly risk their lives in gratitude.
Just like me, you will probably wake up on Christmas day and follow all the family traditions. Enjoy this. Take advantage of it. There are many Christians who cannot openly celebrate this beautiful day. However, don’t forget that the true message isn’t the presents under the tree, but the Christ inside your heart.