Me: Today I would like to talk to you about Santa Claus because the two of you have many things in common.
Jesus: Who is Santa Claus?
Me: Santa Claus is a fictitious character based on a real person, St. Nicholas. Over the centuries multiple traditions have contributed to his transformation and the creation of a mythical legend steeped in wonder and mystery. He represents a spirit of joy, giving and good will toward mankind. However, he is best known for his ability to deliver toys to millions of children in a single night. He accomplishes this by riding in a flying chariot pulled by flying deer. This holiday coincides with the Christian celebration of your miraculous virgin birth.
Jesus: What does this have to do with me and Christmas? My life was about righteous living and the coming kingdom not gifts for children and a magic chariot.
Me: That is precisely the point of our discussion today. You’ll have to forgive me for saying, but despite St. Nicklaus being dead, the myth surrounding Santa inspires great joy in millions of children who await his arrival every Christmas morning. Belief he is alive has a profound impact on children. Eventually children grow up and realize almost everything about him is fictional but many pass this tradition on to their children and so on. Much like your resurrection, those who believe are genuinely filled with joy and hope. As you yourself would admit, almost nothing about the current version of Christianity reflects any of your actual teaching especially its emphasis on Judaism.
Interestingly, Santa is also known to keep a “Naughty List” which contain the name of boys and girls who have been bad. Parents will use this fictitious list to coerce better behavior in much the same way Christians use the threat of judgment to illicit obedience.
Jesus: I see where you’re going but there’s a big difference because my followers believed they saw me which generated their conviction in my resurrection.
Me: In the history of Christianity, those who claim to have actually seen you represent an infinitesimally small number compared with the billions who believe in you but have never seen you. This is similar to children and Santa Claus.
Jesus: But he is a child’s fairy tale. Adults do not believe in Santa Claus because they know he is folklore.
Me: You are right of course, but why don’t they believe anymore? Children grow up and learn the truth about Santa Claus which moves him from fact to fiction. In the case of your resurrection, for fifteen hundred years there was no one to challenge the myth. People assumed you were alive and real because that is what they were taught from childhood with few exceptions. Then along came science and acted like the parent informing their child Santa was not real. It provided convincing proof which many “children” accepted while others refused to believe. The power to believe was stronger than the will not to believe because some did not want to abandon the gift of salvation.
Jesus: How else are we similar?
Me: Mystery and the supernatural surround both of you. Santa is believed to live at a place called the North Pole where he, his wife and an army of elves are thought to make the toys for children in a huge workshop. On Christmas Eve, Santa’s sleigh carries these toys around the world to each home. It is pulled by a team of reindeer which can fly allowing Santa to visit each child in a single night at incredible speed. Santa is thought to have magical powers to be able to carry so many toys, to so many children in a single night.
Jesus: But I did have power from the LORD to perform signs and wonders which were real unlike Santa’s.
Me: Actually, the original St. Nicholas was thought to have healing powers much like yours. Many believed he had power over demons, could control nature and even perform resurrections. Of course these stories gained popularity long after his death as did yours.
Jesus: Perhaps God was working through him.
Me: As we said in an earlier conversation, since the dawn of science, there has never been a single substantiated miracle. But there are multiple other supernatural details besides your actual resurrection which have been created to explain many discrepancies. You are thought to have been able to walk through locked doors, appear and disappear at will, ascend to heaven and bestow spiritual gifts upon your believers.
Jesus: I see the comparison but why do Christians allow both to be celebrated on the same day if they know Santa Clause is a myth?
Me: I suppose it’s the confluence of the secular and sacred. The traditions of Christmas surrounding your birth are regarded by many as areligious and even many Christians do not consider Santa Claus an intrusion into their faith. Each sees the other as innocuous although some conservative Christians eschew anything not specifically linked to your miraculous birth. I don’t want to belabor the point but the bulk of Christians are not so committed as to care enough to try to eradicate Santa Claus due largely to the massive economic impact this tradition brings. Since almost all benefit financially, either directly or indirectly, from this aspect of Christmas, they are not about to try to stop it.
Jesus: So Christmas is both a day of religious celebration and a celebration of monetary gain?
Me: Yes but I would say the financial aspect greatly overshadows the religious element. The blending of these traditions is evidence of the sacralism that pervades American society but it also reveals the fundamental greed which underlies it. Each year many decry this point but it falls on deaf ears.
I would conclude this discussion with this observation. One of the most ironic things in America is some staunchly conservative Christians like evangelicals, vehemently oppose the promotion of Santa and Christmas because of the magic that surrounds it. Yet when it comes to you, they accept everything about your life as factual no matter how supernatural it is. You are thought to have walked on water and calmed a storm on command. You are believed to have turned water into wine and multiplied a few loaves and fish into enough to feed thousands. You are even credited with raising a man named Lazarus from the dead. All of these things many Christians accept without reservation but take offense at the idea of Santa.
I can tell you Santa Claus has not been responsible for murders, child abuse and other untold atrocities committed in your name. In fact, Santa Claus represents the good in mankind. Each year at Christmas the spirit of kindness and generosity permeates society. Santa does bring a little magic into the world and it has never harmed anyone.
Merry Christmas Jesus