Lately, it seems like there’s a groundswell to pick Santa or Jesus, like Team Edward or Team Jacob, Dallas Cowboys or Washington Redskins, creationism or Darwinism. That you can’t give credit to one without disavowing or at least diminishing the other.
But what if there’s room for both under the Christmas tree or at the foot of the cross? What if Christmastime is an opportunity to recognize that while Jesus was the ultimate Christ figure that other figures have shown us what it meant to be “like Jesus,” or “little Christs” as the first followers of Christ?
The first incarnation of “Santa Claus” we see is Saint Nicholas of Myra in fourth-century Turkey. This individual was known for giving benevolently to the poor, and using his wealth to benefit others, so much so that he was remembered in death by acts of charity toward children. Alterations and additions occurred over time, with lists of those who were good (thank you Sinterklaas of the Netherlands) and a poem from the early 1900s adding in a sleigh and some reindeer. (Of course, Rise of the Guardians also made him a tattooed Russian who fights efficiently with katannas.)
But check that out for a minute: Santa AKA Nick cares for orphans, the poor, those who are in need. He uses what he has to be a blessing to others. Put aside your view of the church (however jaded it may be) and reflect on Jesus.
Jesus said we should all become faithful like children (Matthew 18:1-5) and told his followers to love as he had loved (John 15:12). In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus makes it plain that feeding, clothing, sheltering etc. the neediest folks was paramount to God. The Apostle Paul echoed Micah and Isaiah by continuing to harp on the care of the needy, specifically the widows and orphans.
So generosity is blessed, and caring for those in need is blessed, and Santa does that, right? But Santa also blesses those with much…through parents, grandparents, and others every Christmas. Maybe it’s not that there’s no room for Santa AKA St. Nicholas with Jesus, but that we have to remember the focus of the generosity first. We need the focus on Santa to change. We need to be really, actually generous.
St. Nicholas placed others’ needs above his own; he made his wealth subjugated to the caring for others. Can we do that? Can we give more than we get? Can we balance our family/friend giving with our giving away, with no return?
Maybe not immediately, but bit-by-bit we could.
Why not start today?