A Struggle With Christmas Spirit
December 18, 2017
by Alex Anderson

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Can Jesus and Santa be celebrated at the same time?

Every year around this time, we see the nation collectively lose its mind embracing the Christmas spirit: twinkly lights emblazoning every corner, candy force-fed to the masses and infants sitting (nervously) on the lap of Santa. The unruly mix of music and decorations and Christmas trees—even at church—all have us wrestling with the same question. What is this season truly about? Jesus, or Santa? And how can we balance the two?

It might be something that you’ve always struggled with. You grew up in a traditional church, one that always pointed your gaze to the real reason for the season. And yes, Advent is truly magical, a time that is supposed to be about waiting on God—remembering His coming as a baby and looking towards His return in glory.

Two reasons for Christmas?

Is it still okay to love the second Christmas? The second Christmas is full of movies that just make you ~feel~ good. That Christmas is covered in cookies and cake and candy, all guaranteed to make you regret your culinary choices. That Christmas comes with presents and wrapping paper and gift receipts. That Christmas has roaring fires and cozy, cuddly nights reading old stories that you’ve heard a thousand times. Is that so bad?

This isn’t a hard question for most people. Christmas is just Christmas. It’s not something that’s up for debate. And others still would throw in the original St. Nick‘s story here, a Greek born 280 years after Jesus Christ who would become bishop of Myra, a small Roman town in modern Turkey. If Santa was a Christian, then why can’t he be a part of our tradition?

Even then, Saint Nicholas wasn’t a fat or jolly man, but developed his persona as the storied gift-giver from only a few small anecdotes. He had a reputation as a strong-willed and intense defender of doctrine when the church needed it most. And yes, he even spent time in prison for his loyalty to the faith.

But most people aren’t in awe of Santa’s Christian exploits. They just love a chubby grandfather figure with rosy cheeks and deep pockets. He’s the personification of all the Christmasy feelings that you love so much, not a hero of the faith that keeps you motivated to preach the gospel.

There’s real hope available.

Santa Claus is everything that we want to feel at Christmas time. He represents all of our buried childhood yearnings for the latest toy or present. He’s the symbol that we cling to that shows a world that’s just a little better than the one we’re in right now. Santa Claus taps into a magic that’s just below the surface, bringing a nostalgia for something that we might have never seen. But we know what it feels like.

And that feeling can be so pure. It’s just the idea of Christmas. It’s not a selfish desire for gifts or a sports car. It’s a hope for a better world that suddenly becomes possible when combined with a longing for Christ.

Santa should point to Jesus.

For Christians, the Advent weeks leading up to Christmas help us to envision how the people of Israel felt awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. This time of year, it’s strangely easy to believe that the world can be better than it is.

The magic of Santa—and the hopeful longing that accompanies it—is a reminder that God has come down to make things better. And that one day, He will make things right in this world. The obsession with Santa Claus points to the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, who is ever-available to fulfill and satisfy all of our Christmas dreams.

Our fascination with Santa and our dogged search for a Christmas Lifetime-movie-version-of-reality begins and ends with the person of Jesus. When you realize Santa is serving a particular role, your annual struggle with the Christmas season might be a little easier to bear.

If you found this article informative and helpful, please share! And don’t forget to keep a lookout for incoming resources for churches and ministries from Yellowbox Creative.

Do you need help:

(1) Launching a church plant?

(2) Designing your church series?

(3) Nurturing a creative community?

At Yellowbox, we empower churches and ministries with the tools, coaching and resources they need to reach real people. With that creative support, church outreach is no longer intrusive — it becomes a catalyst for community.