A story was in the news a few years ago; a mother wrote to Sports Direct to complain. Her husband and their ten year old son where in the shop when she complained an assistant informed her son that Father Christmas was dead, and had been buried in Turkey where his bones had been found.
She said she had wanted her child to continue to believe in the ‘magic’ and ‘miracles’ of Christmas. One of the reasons materialists like the shop assistant insist on bringing ‘reason’ to these myths is that they see beliefs such as these as wrong. To them the Gospel of science is the foundation of all Truth and there can be no competition.
It may be ungracious of me, but there may be a little bit of pride in this situation as well.
As Christians we have another challenge; what we believe is Truth. Truth is accssessed by faith, yes, but it can also be approached through reason. Despite Jesus’ counter intuitive, radical message – that hatred should be met with love, evil can be defeated through sacrifice – it’s shown to be true continually. One of my first steps towards faith, real faith, was when I studied the world religions which were all meant to be the same, but found them radically different and my life and my observations bore out the Truth.
However the Santa Claus myth, if we engage in it too uncritically, can create a situation were the fantastic story of Jesus’ life can itself appear to be just as fictitious. Particularly as both stories are told at the same time.
The incident at Sports Direct clarified some of these concerns for me, but thinking about it also gave me a way to consider how I was going to frame the festive season’s focus on the big, fat man in the red suit. So if I was to meet this child, what would I say?
Firstly, it’s true that Santa Claus or Father Christmas is dead and his bones have been found in Turkey. His name isn’t Santa Claus or Father Christmas though, we know him by his real name; St Nicholas.
So are the stories we tell about him nonsense?
No, they’re not. They’re myths that are based on his life.
St Nicholas did have a special care for children, particularly poor children. He saved many from destitution and worse.
The chimney thing? Well that comes from his life. He was modest and believed all things come through Jesus. So when he gave money to these poor families St Nicholas did so in humility – he threw them down the chimney so others wouldn’t know who the giver was.
Is it all a lie then?
No. You see St Nicholas, being devoted to Christ, is now in heaven and he is able to do the miraculous through Him.
Work is good; Adam and Eve were given the task of looking after the Garden of Eden. We see work as hard, a burden, too much of the time. However work becomes that way when we live outside of the Spirit of God. When we live within God’s spirit work is good. He has a role for each of us and has given us talents to equip us. So when we listen and are guided to our vocations we will have immense joy and blessing through work.
St Nicholas is blessed with the task of caring for children, even from heaven. He continues to do this day today, so when we talk about him this is what we’re referring to. He may not be on a sleigh ridden by reindeer, but you can guarantee that whatever way God equips him to help children it is fantastic. What’s also fantastic is we can pray to join St Nicholas in his mission. If you do this you will begin to know what the true miracle of Christmas is as God guides your actions and shows you His plan.
Yes, adults may engage in fantasy at this time. Stories. But Christmas is a time of joy for all so that’s ok, as long as we know the truth is even more joyful. Nevertheless it’s important to know this because St Nicholas’ existence at the North Pole is not as exciting as him in heaven; because one day you will lose someone, and you will be afraid you will not see them again. The faith you build helping St Nicholas in his mission and following God’s plan for you will let you kwow that you do not need to be afraid of this. You will see them again.