Christmas is such an incredible time of year. It seems no matter how old we grow nothing seems to touch our life as much as the time surrounding Christmas Day. The decorations, the thrill of giving gifts, as well as receiving gifts and the expectations of gathering with those we love brings joy beyond measure for many of us.
Remembering the joy (and maybe trepidation) of sitting on Santa’s lap, reciting your Christmas wishes is probably most people’s first memory of Christmas. As we grow older, we go through seasons of visiting Santa; then walking past his throne in the mall, wishing we could still speak with him but not wanting to embarrass ourselves in front of other teenagers. Then as parents we come full circle and feel the joy and excitement of taking our own children to visit Santa. (Okay, we probably feel anxiety yet again, but this time it’s due to the long lines of screaming and crying children waiting with us.)
Believing in this special time of year is the cornerstone of the excitement. As a young child we believe with all our hearts Santa is real. With the progression of time, especially as teenagers, we lose our belief in the Santa and the spirit of Christmas itself begins to wane. The reality of life in adulthood pulls us back into the need and desire to believe again. To once again grasp the hand of something bigger than ourselves. To fill a void in our hearts where compassion and security once lived.
In the quest to fill this emptiness or to regain the incredible feeling of happiness we once knew and anticipated all year, we dive headlong into the holiday, doing our best to create an atmosphere of peace on earth, good will toward man, for a month. Everyone’s Christmas experiences may not have been as joyful and so some may choose to avoid the chaos the season brings to their mind. They find other activities to occupy their time and thoughts to bypass a memory of times not as pleasant.
In all these instances there was once a belief. A belief in a man, Santa. A belief in a concept of acceptance of others, whether it is family or friends. No matter what your status in society and where you were headed, you were accepted. A belief that society, for a short period of time, might find peace even if only on Christmas morning.
Time changes us and what we believe. Life doesn’t go the way we had planned. Jobs are lost. Marriages fall apart. We lose loved ones; either suddenly or after we fervently prayed they would be healed. The list can go on and on of the things which change and redefine what we believe. Sometimes as we mature and our belief in Santa goes into the memory box, we allow our belief in God to do the same.
Many times in our life, we are taught concepts about God which sound eerily familiar to the way Santa was described to us as children: “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” Sound familiar?
Sometimes our prayers grow hauntingly similar to our Christmas list, when we were children. A listing of wants and desires, dutifully recited with the hope all would be delivered. We sometimes even promise to be good, hoping this will add to the possibility of deliverance.
What happened to our hopes and dreams if or when Santa didn’t deliver everything we had requested? Is that when your doubts began to creep in about whether he was real or not? Certainly the anger was probably there. The absolute disappointment of dreams not fulfilled.
Have you ever had the same idea about God? Do you still live under the impression that God is some older gentleman, sitting on a big chair waiting to see if you will be bad or good? Somewhere in life have you settled on a picture of God holding a good list and a bad list of all of us here on earth? Have you asked for something, and it didn’t happen then assumed you were on His “bad” list?
If this is your experience, did you also stop believing in God? Did the concept of ‘if Santa isn’t real, then God isn’t real’ invade your belief system?
Let’s be honest with each other, God isn’t Santa. But because He isn’t Santa, doesn’t mean we stop believing. God isn’t a concept, He is a reality. God isn’t a toy maker; He is a “life giver”. Acts 17:25b says, “He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things” (NASB).
God wants us to ask Him for provisions and blessings in our life. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV). But God doesn’t promise all requests will be given and we tend to forget that point. These things aren’t forgotten by God or denied to us because of spite. Sometimes it is for our best and when we don’t realize this idea, we grow angry at God and walk away. Similar to a child on Christmas morning who doesn’t receive the gift they requested. Picture a beautiful child in their pajamas, standing next to a gloriously lit tree on Christmas morning. They anxiously look for the gift with the “from Santa” tag. The gift is found, the wrapping paper is torn to shreds and the look of joy and anticipation on the child’s face turns to anger and disappointment. Santa didn’t deliver! The day is ruined in the child’s mind. “How could Santa do this to me?” the cry rings out. Thus begins the downward spiral of not believing anymore.
This happens with some people’s relationship with God. But there is the difference between Santa and God. Relationship. God wants a relationship with us. He wants a life-long relationship with us, in good times and bad. Santa is only around for one month a year. God is around 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
If we read Matthew 7:9-11, we see why sometimes God doesn’t give us the things we ask from Him. In our relationship with God, He is a Father. He knows what is good for us.
God is much deeper than Santa. He cares. He wants to bless us and He wants a relationship with all of us. God is always the same and He is always there. Santa is different at every mall and sometimes he takes a break for lunch.
If you stopped believing in God about the same time you stopped believing in Santa, this holiday season, think about why you stopped believing. Realizing that God wants to be your father may provide the explanation you have been searching to find.
God isn’t Santa, but He did give the greatest gift of all time – Jesus Christ!