Well it’s that time of year again when the radio stations are playing Christmas songs all day long like the station we have been listening to. It really is astounding how many Christmas songs and different versions of them there are. As I slipped out to the store the other day, the song that was playing was “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” The version that was playing said, “You better watch out, You better not cry, You better not pout I'm telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town! He's making a list, He's checking it twice, He's gonna find out who's naughty or nice, Santa Claus is coming to town! He sees you when you're sleeping, And he knows when you're awake, He knows if you've been bad or good, So be good for goodness sake.” This version of the song seems to assume you will get gifts if you are good enough. Another version sung by Bing Crosby tells you what could actually be under the tree. We are told in this version, “Little tin horns, little tin drums Rudy-toot-toot and rummy tum tums, Santa Claus is comin' to town! And curly head dolls that cuddle and coo, elephants, boats and kiddy cars too. Santa Claus is comin' to town. The kids in girl and boy land will have a jubilee. They're gonna build a toy land town all around the Christmas tree.” Obviously the song was written (1934) pre-electronics era.
                So for years Santa Claus has been the centre of attention at Christmas time, even when compared to the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. You will notice if you look around that Santa definitely gets top billing. I won’t include the story of Santa but you can look up the interesting story for yourself. I did like one description about Santa that said, “Santa Claus the man is actually loosely rooted in fact, though he hasn't always looked the way he does today, having evolved from a gift-giving Catholic saint who lived during the third century. The Protestant Reformation and the emigration of European traditions to America morphed that pious figure into the red-suited character that is now one of the most famous images in the world, complete with his iconic army of elves and a magical transportation system.” A lot of things have morphed into something else in America. Then there was this story in America, which became a book and movie. This was the story of a little girl asking her father if Santa was real. The father wisely passed her question on to the newspaper called the Sun. This story called “Yes Virginia” goes like this. “DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?” VIRGINIA O’HANLON. 115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET. The paper then responds, “VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge. Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world. You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.” (September 21, 1897)
                I remember when our kids were small and our journey went from believing in Santa to it just being fun at Christmas. We still every so often put a gift from Santa under the tree just for fun. But think back to the dilemma of parenting a young child like Virginia. Is Santa real or not? Do the reindeers really eat carrots and who was it that really ate the cookies and milk? Most parents really don’t want to mess up their kids Christmas but there will be kids that have no problem messing up your child’s Christmas and making fun of them for their belief in Santa if it goes on too long. Do you really want to be the one that shatters Christmas for your child? Virginia’s father sure didn’t. Do you really want your child made fun of? It really is quite a predicament. On one hand you want Christmas to be a wonderful time of year but on the other Santa is not real and what we call Christmas is not how Christmas started. Deep down inside there is something in everyone that really does want to believe. But as we see in the movie “The Santa Clause”, the question was asked, when did you stop believing? The answer to the question was I stopped believing when I didn’t get what I asked for. Well this part is tough for parents, as the children may not tell you what they asked for from Santa and then what? There really needs to be some strong communication between the mall Santa and the parents or else there could possibly be a Christmas meltdown!
                Santa also raises lots of questions that are hard to answer such as travel, chimneys or lack thereof etc. The bottom line is that Santa is really hard to believe in for adults because there are just so many questions without answers, which is why children seem to have no problem believing because they have the faith of child. In the same movie, “The Santa Clause” one of the elves named Judy said, “Seeing isn't believing: believing is seeing. Kids don't have to see this place to know that it's here. They just... know.” But no matter what a child might believe, if a child does not tell anyone but Santa about a toy they want, that toy is not going to be under the tree, then there are problems.
                This blog today is not really about Santa or shattering some child’s belief, but there is a lot we can learn from the belief in Santa. Unfortunately over time many have pictured God as Santa, where you go sit on His lap and ask for things and then when you don’t get them or life doesn’t go your way, you stop believing. While there are many unanswered questions about Santa, the bible has all the answers about Jesus. When I heard the song today I could not help but think how this season of joy has gotten so out of control. I don’t think most are even worried about being good; gifts are coming anyways. This year more than ever gifts will probably show up on a truck and end up at your front door. Christmas has been commercialized and the original message of Jesus Christ has been set aside or as I talked about on Sunday, in the case of the church has been held on too tight. Yes Jesus is the reason for the season but that was just the beginning. The church seems to be stuck at the birth of our King and has not moved on to serving our King while clothed with power from on High. As we heard from Judy the elf, children have no problem believing in Santa. They go to bed, wake up and there are presents under the tree and the milk and cookies are gone. It is probably not till later when they don’t get a particular gift, intellect takes over and those around them are telling them Santa is not real that unbelief kicks in. Christianity requires belief till you die not just when you are young. But that belief even as an adult requires a child-like faith. Childlike faith is not ignorance all though it appears to be. It means the things of the world have not interfered with their belief. Faith is at the centre of Christianity and the things of this world cannot cloud our faith, even Christmas. In Genesis God said let there be… and there was. Sadly the other choice for creation is that particles that have always existed blew up to form perfection. No one can prove that God created but no one can disprove it but as we see in Hebrews 11:1 “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” This is why we believe the bible to be the very word of God. Paul said in Romans 1:17 “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we live by faith, not by sight.” So yes, believing is seeing. Jesus said Luke 18:16 “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” We are called to be children of God. Galatians 3:7 “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 6 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” 1 John 3:1 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” Jesus asked this question Luke 18:8 “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Faith is crucial for the kingdom of God. We believe what the bible tells us so. How is your faith?
                So when you think about Santa as a child, some pretty amazing things would have to happen in order for it to be true. In fact it is almost to good to be true but if you look closely you can see a relationship between faith in Santa and faith in Jesus. No I’m not saying they are the same just the belief part. It’s odd that some children will be made fun of for their belief in Santa and some adults are mocked for their belief in Jesus but both take great faith especially the Santa part. But then this is where the similarities end. Belief in Jesus gives you eternal life but belief in Santa gives you nothing, not even coal. Yes they say be good so you can get a gift. It sounds like a ploy from parents to get their children to behave. But being good enough is not how it works with Christianity. There are many good people who will go to hell because they chose not to believe what we are told in John 3:6 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Belief and unbelief seem to be the key here. Now as far as how Santa works, there really needs to be proof but instead there are just lies built upon lies that make up a story. Yes there will be stories of people doing amazing things for others at Christmas but there is absolutely no proof Santa exists. Sure maybe at the beginning there were some nice stories but we are a long way from Saint Nicholas.
                Lets look at gifts. When you ask for a gift from Santa, you will not get it if someone doesn’t know you asked for it. Do that for a few years and your image of Santa will change drastically even as a child. Jesus on the other hand said, Mark 11:22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. ” Matthew 21:22 “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” John 14:13 “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Our newspaper writer said, “The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.” Wow that is quite a deep philosophical statement for a child. I think she was just looking for yes Santa exists. This statement just isn’t true as the way this world works is there must be proof. Unlike Santa who has no proof, the bible has proof. Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Sadly just because you don’t see, as the newspaper writer said, doesn’t mean it is real as there must be something to validate Santa’s existence other than someone saying he is real. There has to be proof just like the world proves God existence. Yes Santa did exist in a different form but then he died and that was it, unless you believe in magic and all that goes with Santa, North Pole, flying reindeer and elves, of which there is no proof. On the other hand you have Jesus who showed us the proof of life after death. Yes you may say he lived and died. You may say we don’t see God either but we have proof of His word as we just read in Romans and generations of proof along with historical data. The original Santa died, as did Jesus but Jesus rose from the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:1 “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”
                When it comes to gifts here is the problem. Both Santa and Jesus promised us gifts. In both cases many who don’t get what they asked for stop believing. Many Christians over time have not seen what the bible promised them so they turn away instead of turning to and seeking God with everything they have. They give up and stop believing. When the church started, there were gifts given and they were supposed to continue. Hebrews 2:3 “This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” These are the gifts you really want. 1 Corinthians 12:4 “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” 1 Corinthians 14:1 “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit.” The bible also tells us. Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” This verse also tells us it's the parents giving the gifts! Trusting God means he will take care of us. Matthew 6:31 “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”  But as we have talked about, the church turned away from God’s word and God withdrew the power available to us. Therefore these gifts have been withdrawn and the church is in desolation. The church needs to get back to doing what needs to be done so that God will give His gifts once again. So without knowing that crucial piece of knowledge that God has turned His face from us, many who go to church ask but don’t receive, then they stop believing. Christianity just becomes another thing they don’t believe in. They didn’t actually know that God will turn His face from us because of disobedience even though we are told, Isaiah 1:15 “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening.”
                So no, Santa Claus is not coming to town but Jesus will, if you return to Him and when He does the city will be turned upside down. Matthew 21:9 “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” We are told in the song that all we have to do is be good and we will receive gifts. It doesn’t really work that way. If you believe in Santa with all your heart and have been unbelievably well behaved, you will not receive a thing, sad I know, because Santa does not exist. But if you are looking for all the things that Santa can represent, aside from material things, like expectation, joy, hope, love, anticipation and childlike faith, Jesus Christ is your answer not Santa. One is truth; the other is a fictional story. Luke 2:3 “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” So if you really want to have a merry Christmas with glad tidings and good cheer, return to the true meaning of Christmas. Turn back to Jesus the reason for the season. God said if you return to me I will return to you then you will see what a true gift looks like. Romans 6:22 “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
                Yes we can sing about being good because Santa is coming to town but nothing will come of it. But there is one you can commit your life to but most won’t commit to the one who can offer you the greatest gift of all, eternal life, making sure your name is in the book of life that is real. It is easy to be distracted so don’t miss out on the true meaning of Christmas. I realize that many believe Jesus to be just another fairytale like Santa but that is an eternal mistake. John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Peter told us in Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call. 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”