Sunday 9 December 2012

The real Santa Claus

I'm so grateful to God that he believes in the written word. He created the world, then he got someone to write down exactly what happened. He sent his son to redeem mankind, then he got the witnesses to write it down. These written accounts enable us to get a clear picture of God's nature and character and gives us something to believe in and base our faith upon.

God very clearly wants us to know him and to reveal him to others who don't know him. This is such a joy and why I love my job so much.

I'm debating at the moment what to reveal to Joshua about Santa Claus or Father Christmas. The culture in many parts of the world is to celebrate this jolly fellow who is generous and gives out presents to good children. This story is also attached to mystical idea that he's still alive and travels the earth and is able to perform a miracle of visiting every child.

I thought I'd spend a bit of time reading the written account of the real St Nicholas, who lived in the 4th Century. What I see, if the records are true, are some amazing stories of provision and miracles. A real man of faith. It's no surprise that we've kept this figure 'alive' in our hearts, as he performed so many miracles, yet took no credit for himself. It was others that credited him, but in fact, he only told of how great God is.

There were times of famine, where, through prayer and intercession, Nicolas pleaded with God and harvests were multiplied. He had an amazing heart for the poor children and would bless continuously. He believed in the deity of Christ and defended his faith. He was a righteous man, devout in his discipline and walk with Christ and 'carried his cross' daily.

Yet what do we as society take from the stories? What do you teach your children about God's provision and guidance through obedience and faith? How many stories of God's compassion on the people do you see?

Adventure, excitement and make-believe is all part of a kid's life. I play with Joshua and all of his toys are not real, but 'make-believe'. It's part play, part educational (how to engage with others, how to take care of equipment etc). Each story I tell has to have a good moral undertone that would line up with scripture. We need to value truth.

I can see how this bastardisation of the story happened. It was probably in good faith that parents wanted to get their children to behave themselves, and to do that they needed a mechanism. Rather than "if you're bad, you won't get any Christmas presents", it's "if you're good, Santa Claus might visit and give you lots of presents", thereby offsetting the discipline to a third 'mystical' party who looks on you and decides if you've been good or not.

Current story of Santa Claus: Mystical figure who will give presents to children who are good.
Summary: behave yourself and you'll receive a gift.
Outworking: transactional faith by works. Ultimately selfish (if I am good, I will get what I want)

Original story: Faithful man of God serves God unconditionally, has a fulfilled life and was able to bless others, especially the poor and needy
Summary: Put God first, then serve others.
Outworking: selfless love that has no bounds.

I know which Santa Claus I'd rather teach about. So, as Joshua grows older, I'm not going to stop teaching about this saint that we all hold dearly to, but I'll tell him the true story, so that he's not 'trying to be good' with the aim to receive presents, but put others first before himself.

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