28 December 2020

The Truth About God and Santa

For over a century now, the Christmas tradition has included, at least in the United States, parents taking their children to the mall to sit on Santa's lap, tell him whether they were naughty or nice and what they want for Christmas. As soon as they are old enough to read and write, they start writing letters to Santa Claus to tell him the same thing.

I remember when I was six years old and my mom took me shopping with her, not to the mall, but to another shopping center. Being December, Santa was there of course, but this Santa didn't look like the Santa at the mall, this Santa was Black. I asked my mom if that was really Santa; she told me that really is Santa and that he looks different in different places so that children know he does not prefer any children over any others. At six years old, that was good enough for me, because Santa is magical just like Christmas.

As an adult, I find myself thinking about just how many lessons were packed into that one narrative about Santa and reindeer and elves making toys at the north pole above a frozen sea far beyond anywhere humans can go. It is just a narrative, a fiction; there is nothing at the north pole but ice and snow, and yet, the narrative is still true.

Children understand the truth, that their hopes and dreams can become reality if they do the right thing and apply themselves all year, that there is more to the world than what can be seen, that meaning is not found in dry facts but in what we believe, that Santa Claus is real not because they can sit on his lap, but because he delivers on what he says he will do. To children, the truth is not only what is real, but what can be, what will be, and what should be real.

Jesus told his disciples that to "enter the Kingdom of Heaven," they would have to "become like little children" (Matt 18:1-4). When he taught his disciples to pray, he taught them to ask for what they need and to be shown the same kindness that they show to others (Matt 6:9-13).

People get hung up on whether the Bible is historically factual, whether the world was created in six days or whether Jesus was white or brown. If you get stuck at that level, you can never get to the truth, the meaning of scripture. There may be no reindeer at the north pole, but every year countless children receive presents from Santa Claus. The world may not have been created in six literal days, but it exists for a purpose, God's purpose. Jesus was Jewish, male, and brown, but the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, is every gender and color of humanity because our hearts are its home.

As you look forward to next year, take time to believe, to hope, to pray for your dreams to come true, and then pursue your purpose. God will provide, and that is the truth.

Peace be with you.

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