“He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake! Ohhhhh…….”
Talk about creepy; what in the world could possibly have inspired someone to write those lyrics and still hope they would produce joy (of all things) in the heart of any child? Does that song make you want Santa to come to your home? No thanks; close, block and reinforce the chimney flue before coming to bed please.
The odd thing is, people can look at Jesus this way too. He is the rewarder of good people, a gift for the good, a rich symbol of wisdom, joy, peace and love for those wise enough to learn from him… and they stop there. If the “heads” side of the coin is needlessly villianizing Santa Claus, the “tails” side I want to flip to today is carelessly ‘Santafying’ Jesus. ‘Santafying?’ you ask – yes, ‘Santafying.’ As in, “our culture has in large part ‘wholly Santafied’ Jesus” (a little inside C&MA humor there…) So what does a ‘Santafied’ Jesus look like? Maybe a better question is – “What does the person that treats Jesus like ‘Santa Christ’ look like?”
~ Thinks of Jesus as just another ornament on the tree of culture. He’s a colorful character that enriches our stories, our celebrations, our imaginations…
~ Treats Jesus like the favorite uncle that visits once a year. If you play nice, he gives you good stuff and might send $5 with your birthday card too.
~ Sees the example of Jesus’ life and teaching as the greatest gift to humanity. He was a noble man at the least, and at best, a role model from God that we should follow in our dealings with the world around us.
~ Feels strongly that ‘good people deserve good things in life.'
But it’s not just “secular” people that fall into the trap of treating Jesus like “Santa Christ;” Christians can do it too.
“How sadly common it is for the church to manufacture a Jesus who is a mirror refection of Santa Claus. He becomes Santa Christ. Like Santa, he simply asks us whether we have been good. More exactly, since the assumption is that we are all naturally good, Santa Christ asks us whether we have been ‘good enough.’ So just as Christmas dinner is simply the better dinner we really deserve, Jesus becomes a kind of added bonus who makes a good life even better. He is not seen as the Savior of helpless sinners.” -- Sinclair Ferguson
Jesus is more than the cosmic vending machine. He’s more than ‘a good man who has left us all better off because of His wise teaching.’ He’s more than a prophet, more than a teacher, more than a preacher, more than just the wonderful baby who came that first Christmas so long ago. He’s more… I was checking Bill’s blog this week (www.maxgrace.com) and was excited to find we were writing about similar topics… here, he expresses the danger of “Santa Christ” perfectly:
“There’s a tragically hilarious spoof in [the movie] Talledega Nights (Todd Skinner told me about this, and when I saw it, I laughed out loud at the satire of our culture)… in which the lead character prays for his family meal. This guy is so narcissistic, that he chooses to pray to “Baby Jesus” and “tiny infant Jesus” and “little baby Jesus” and “Eight pound, six ounce Jesus.” His wife and father-in-law challenge him, but he basically says, “I like the Christmas Jesus best, and I’m saying grace. When you say grace you can pray to grown up Jesus… or whatever Jesus you want.”
This satirical punch to the gut of truncated Christianity is super-effective. There’s truth in “baby Jesus.” He is the reason for Christmas. But baby Jesus isn’t the whole truth. The whole truth is summed up in the angel’s instruction to Joseph: “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21, NKJV).
You will call his name Jesus–the word for Savior. For he will save his people from their sins. From their sins. Not from the corruptions of the government, or from political oppression, or from psychological disturbance, or from financial poverty… though all these things can be the outcroppings of sin, and are addressed tangentially in the gospel. Yes, we should be involved in the mission of bettering lives on earth. But never forget that on Christmas God gave us a Savior from our sins. There’s the whole truth of Christmas. That’s why we celebrate.”
Remember this Christmas that “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” is only possible because of the death baby Jesus was born to die “for helpless sinners.”