West Franklin Family,
For a short season of my life, I was “that guy.” The doctrine police. The theological terror. The guy who would blast manger scenes that not only displayed the wise men – but only three of them! According to the Scriptures, the wise men showed up later – much later – post-birth. And nowhere does the Bible indicate there were only three. I believed it was my calling in life to show you how heretical you were by displaying such preposterous things in your home or church lobby. I would be the guy who would ruin everyone’s Christmas by making sure they knew that Mary did indeed know
, according to the Scriptures. And don’t get me started about Santa. How dare my parents lie to me about a man who didn’t really exist! The peril! I would make sure to be much more theologically and doctrinally astute than they. Ho, Ho, No Way! Not Matt Pearson!
By God’s good grace to me (and my wife and children) that season was short-lived. I am beyond grateful, with no regrets, that we encouraged our children to believe in Santa. And I am extremely glad my parents did the same with me and my sisters.
I read a comment recently on social media that got my attention. It said (my paraphrase): “Calm down people! No one ever rejected Jesus or stopped being a Christian because someone’s manger scene included wise men.” Yes and Amen. I can’t help believe that this is true. We doctrine police people sure can get in a wad about stuff that doesn’t matter can’t we? You might want to sit down before you read this, but . . . it’s okay if your manger scene includes wise men; and it’s okay if there are only three.
As a child, I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped make them. I had not even been good – far from it.
And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me. . . What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea.
Then I wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.
Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea. I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Clause gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.
As a child, the very act of a Santa Claus for Chesterton led him to a deep and rich and grace-filled imagination enabling him to understand the Gospel of Jesus! He knew, as a child, how incredible it was that a certain being was benevolently disposed toward him though he had been far from good. As a child, it was Santa Claus. As he grew older, he became enamored by the reality that it was/is far better than he had imagined: God was benevolently disposed toward him and freely gives him gifts, especially Jesus. Could there be more attention grabbing illustration of the Gospel for children than Santa Claus!?!?
I love this. I love this because it reminds me of the importance of letting my children dream and imagine and be creative and hope and anticipate and be knocked off their feet with moments of grace. I love this because it reminds me to do the same. Are there dangers with Santa? Maybe. Can we let it get out of hand? Probably. But there is little doubt that the imagined “message” of Santa Claus can also help us understand the gospel of God’s grace for us in Jesus. Don’t dis Santa. I love this because it gives me yet another way to subversively push you, the church I get to pastor
, toward a greater understanding of God. I love this because it gives me permission and the freedom to calm down, relax, and enjoy Christmas.
It’s true. Yes. The wise men approached Jesus a long time (probably years) after Jesus was born. And there were probably many more than three. And, yes, Mary did know. And we all know the truth about Santa Claus. But maybe, just maybe, these Christmas traditions aren’t all bad. To my knowledge, no one has denied the faith because they are “out there.” In fact, the opposite is probably true. They may even point us to a deeper, truer, greater reality. Now that is a Christmas miracle.
For God So Loved the World,