It's Christmas time and Santa Claus is everywhere you look. He is at whatever mall we happen to be visiting at precisely the same time as we are. He was at our church Christmas party. I've seen him selling Chevys, Mercedes and Coca-Cola on TV. At my work Christmas party, he flew in on a helicopter.
One can only imagine what had the reindeer tied up.
The point is that Santa has become a major figure-- some would argue the major figure-- of the Christmas season. And for some conservative Christians, this poses a problem.
Commercialism is undoubtedly a significant player in the evolution of ol' Saint Nick. His image and popularity has received significant contributions from the likes of Harper's Weekly, Norman Rockwell and Coca-Cola. Advertisers have snuck brand labels on his apparel and filled his bags with expensive toys, excuses for growing credit card debt and most every kind of worldly indulgence.
With so much business invading Christmas, I've heard some wonder if we have lost the 'Christ' in Christmas. They'll be relieved to know that we have not. At least not entirely. We have Santa, after all.
Santa Claus, also known as St. Nicholas, is much more than a symbol of Christmas commercialism. He is also a symbol of the reason we celebrate Christmas, which is Christ. Santa is the deliverer of the Christmas spirit that makes all of us better, more cheerful people. He is the ultimate giver of gifts and a figure whose coming rapidly motivates children young and old to repent and walk the strait and narrow.
Unproven by science and in the face of impossible odds, Santa Claus allows us all to admit that true belief can transcend physical evidence; that belief in something unseen can be more convincing and more real than if it were right before our eyes. At Christmas time we celebrate the faith of our children and remind the adults that we, too, must learn to have the faith of a child.
Wrapped in his red suit with each of our names printed neatly on his list, Santa Claus can help us remember the Savior that remembers us. Though materialism may increase in the world, the symbol of Santa Claus stands ready to turn the believing soul to Christ, the true author of Christmas.
In the legend of St. Nicholas, if not the man as well, we also find a prime example of what we ought to be as Christians. Through his kindness and giving, millions of people over nearly two thousand years have learned about faith, about serving others, and about the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ.
The world should see Christ in the way we live our lives, too. While Santa is all around us each Christmas, we can evaluate our willingness to believe in what is good by asking ourselves one simple question: Do you believe in Santa Claus?