A Christmas Riddle

images (1)Is the myth of Santa a riddle or a taradiddle?  The contrasting stories I saw yesterday certainly paint different pictures of old St. Nick:

  • Story #1: Georgia Church Posts Message Saying ‘Santa Is Satan’
  • Story #2: Secret Santas in Massachusetts Pay Thousands of Dollars to Close Out All Layaway Orders at Three Toys ‘R’ Us Stores
  • Story #3: Ho Ho No: School bans Santa from winter concert
  • Story #4: Santa and his elves wash windows at Mission Hospital

It seems that people have different opinions of the red-suited giver of gifts.  Is he the demon or the delight of December?  Is he charming or harming to our children.  Is he innocent folklore or a fatuous troll?

A Pew Research survey released in December of 2013 found that Santa is not just a childhood fixation:

  • 69% of parents with at least one child under age 18 said they planned to pretend that old St. Nick would visit their house on Christmas Eve.
  • 22% of parents who don’t have kids that believe in Santa still expected to participate by gift-giving in Santa’s name.
  • 11% of people who don’t celebrate Christmas still planned to get a visit from Santa.

Frank Riga, emeritus professor of English at Canisius College, says the myth of Santa Claus can enhance creativity and imagination in children.

Our focus needs to be on more than Santa and enhancing creativity and imagination.  A new survey (Pew Research) suggests that most Americans report a belief in the biblical Christmas story as historical events that actually occurred. Nearly 75% of Americans believe:

  • Jesus Christ was born of a virgin
  • Angels appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus
  • Wise men were guided by a star and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus
  • 80% of the adults in the USA believe the newborn baby Jesus was laid in a manger.

What will be your main focus this Christmas season?  Will it be the red-suited Claus or the angelic clause?

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”         Luke 2:10-12

The Miracle of St. Nick

In December of last year, Phillip Bump wrote an article for The Atlantic that examined the Christmas Eve workload of the jolly old elf.  Using data from the CIA, Bump focused his article on Santa’s deliveries to the world’s 526,000,000 Christian kids 14 years of age and younger.

Bump determined that Santa would need to “deliver presents to almost 22 million kids an hour, every hour, on the night before Christmas. That’s about 365,000 kids a minute; about 6,100 a second.”  In the spirit of Christmas and in child-like faith, Bump concluded this is “Totally doable,” and later in the article, he said:  “If anyone ever desired sainthood, it is Nick.”

The anticipation of Christmas is hard to contain when you’re a child.  I can remember how quickly I hurried home after school so I could watch Santa’s Workshop on a black and white TV.  The days from Thanksgiving to Christmas passed by with the agonizing speed of a turtle.

As a child, I thought Christmas would never come; and, truthfully, I gave very little thought to its significance.  The desire that I had for the brightly wrapped gifts carefully placed beneath the bright lights and icicles hanging on the Christmas tree, had little to do with the Christ of Christmas.

So, what is Christmas?  It certainly isn’t big box stores opening on Thanksgiving Day to celebrate the birth and arrival of frenzied shopping.  Christmas is the birth of Hope.  It is a time to step away from the hustle and bustle of the mobs and the malls to find a moment of solitude to reflect on what God has done for us.

Christmas is that day long ago when Jesus stepped down from the glories of heaven to be born in a lowly manger; to live a sinless life; to die the death of the cross; to rise again on the third day, and to return to heaven to intercede on our behalf.

The Apostle Paul summarized the life of Christ, when he wrote:    Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:  Jesus appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory            ( I Timothy 3:16).