Sunday, December 14, 2008

Taking Out the Santa Claus Pacifier

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14)

Ah...Christmas is just around the corner. Ready or not, here it comes. It doesn't wait for you. You must be prepared for today's Christmas mania (correction...holiday season mania). Once a religious holiday, Christmas has developed into a mad dash for survival. Just one more dollar to squeeze. Just one more gift to wrap. Just one more this. Just one more that. Silent night turns into clanging cash registers and honking horns in the parking lot. Peace on Earth turns into debt recovery plans. Good will to men turns into "hands off that last special edition barbie doll...it is MINE!" The funny thing is that this isn't a semi-humorous attempt at hyperbole on my part. This is what Christmas has become for so many. This is what Christmas has become for so many Christians. Better put, this is all it has become for too many.

No more wide-eyed wonder over the virgin birth. No more exuberant praise for the supernatural workings of a loving, holy God. No more proclamation that "God is with us!" We have been taught to say, "Happy Holidays" so not to offend others. But wait a minute. Isn't the Christmas story hope for ALL of mankind? Isn't the Christmas story God's gift to "whosoever believes?" Yet, we live in a post-Christian country that the ACLU has in a choke-hold--daring the Christian remnants to express their faith during the holidays. Daring us to believe again. Daring us to utter a word.

This struggle has brought me to question several things. One of these questions has brought about more soul searching than I bargained for. The question? Should I really push the Santa Claus story to my children? My daughter, Ellie Kate, will be old enough to understand so much more this year. And even though deep down I want to throw away every Santa Claus hat and every commercial product that has taken the place of the greatest moment in human history (the birth of Jesus Christ), I do not want to rob my children of some of the intricate details of the Christmas festivities--though secular they may be. Maybe you haven't had this struggle. Honestly, I didn't see it coming. Truthfully, it hasn't been an easy issue for me. Amy and I have prayed over this. We have discussed it together. We ran into wall after wall of uncertainty.

But this morning, I read an interesting, helpful quote from C.S. Lewis. I would like to share it with you. Lewis said, "There is a stage in a child's life at which it cannot separate the religious from the merely festal character of Christmas or Easter. I have been told of a very small and very devout boy who was heard murmuring to himself on Easter morning a poem of his own composition which began 'Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen.' This seems to me, for his age, both admirable poetry and admirable piety. But of course the time will soon come when such a child can no longer effortlessly and spontaneously enjoy that unity. He will become able to distinguish the spiritual from the ritual and festal aspect of Easter; chocolate eggs will no longer seem sacramental. And once he has distinguished he must put one or the other first. If he puts the spiritual first he can still taste something of Easter in the chocolate eggs; if he puts the eggs first they will soon be no more than any other sweetmeat. They will have taken on an independent, and therefore a soon withering, life."

If you didn't catch it the first time, please read it again. Santa Claus is not the enemy here. The enemy is the failure to faithfully teach the true meaning of Christmas as our children grow. The real danger is a lack of "gospel" in the Christmas season. The lack of the greatest gift of all--Jesus Christ. The lack of a public witness during the Christmas season. People are comfortable in their Christmas "death-dash." And as our culture continues to drown out the majestic with the material, it is becoming more and more important for Christians to reclaim the Christmas boldness within their hearts, homes, churches, and communities. I don't fear a thieving Santa Claus lurking in the shadows to hinder my children's belief. What does concern me, however, is the lack of proclamation during the Christmas season. The lack of worship. The lack of reverence. The lack of hope.

Our nation needs to remove the "Santa Claus pacifier." We must be able to distinguish between the spiritual and the festive. The material and the majestic. Unless we do, we too will ultimately settle for an independent, and therefore a soon withering, holiday season. The material must not remain more important than the majestic. We must re-discover the foundational.

Merry Christmas everyone! Glory to God in the highest!