Santa Claus & The Message of the Gospel

Musty pine smell, glitter­ing balls, and smooth, softly faded creche figures: Christmas packed in an old yellow trunk at the back of the children’s closet. Out­ side the sun is bright, the children’s voices are raised in a boisterous game of tag through the lawn sprink­lers. But just smelling the pine and gently fingering the familiar plaster figure of the Christ Child awakens a sense of awe and anticipation for another season of special praise in honor of the birth of my Lord.

Waiting, hoping, eagerly I look forward, anticipat­ing something special. When I was a child, my fam­ily didn’t focus on Christ as the center and circumfer­ence of Christmas. But there was still anticipation. Wait­ing for the first snow. Hop­ing for special presents. Eagerly looking forward to the pleased faces of my loved ones as they opened the presents I had carefully made for them. And some­ how all of the waiting wasn’t over when Christmas Day had passed. It was as though all the different kinds of Christmas waiting were just shadows of the waiting that was still inside me.

When I met Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I finally found out what that waiting was: I was looking for my Redeemer! The first Christmas season after I was born again was infinitely more exciting than any holiday of the past. Each kind of waiting, each part of Christmas, echoed the holy anticipation of the coming of our Lord. Now my family celebrates Christmas with our devotion centered on Jesus Christ.

Over the years we have learned and adapted many Christmas traditions that help us to focus on the birth of our Lord and Savior, sometimes even giving a Christian emphasis to the “commercial­ized” aspects of Christmas. We have found many ways to make Christmas a special celebration of Christ’s birthday.

SANTA CLAUS

When our oldest daughter was not quite I three, we told her about a special Christian who lived a long time ago: “His name was Nicholas, and we call him St. Nicholas because saint means someone who belongs to God, just like we do. In St. Nicholas’ town there were many poor children. They didn’t have enough food, clothes, or toys. St. Nicholas used his money to buy food, clothes, and toys for the poor children. He didn’t want them to be embarrassed by his gifts, so he gave secretly.

“St. Nicholas also told everyone about Jesus and how much God loved them. Many people became Christians because of what St. Nicholas said. Then some mean people who hated Jesus put St. Nicholas in jail to keep him from telling people about Jesus and from helping people. St. Nicholas kept on telling people about Jesus until the mean people finally had him killed.

“Because of how much St. Nicholas loved Jesus, and because of the many gifts he gave the poor children of his town, we still remember St. Nich­olas at Christmas time. All of the gifts he gave, and all of the Christmas presents we give, are to remind us of the very best gift anyone ever gave: when God the Father gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to us for our salvation.

”Today there are many people who don’t know the truth about St. Nicholas. They call him ‘Santa Claus,’ and they tell children pre­tend stories about him liv­ing at the North Pole and having elves and reindeer. But we know the truth, and when we see a depart­ment store Santa Claus or a picture of Santa Claus in a magazine, we remember the real Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, who loved Jesus so much and whose life and death remind us about God’s gift of Jesus Christ to us.”

By learning this true story, our children are able to enjoy Santa Claus while being reminded of the gos­pel and the true meaning of Christmas. We even have a small figure of Santa Claus kneeling at the manger, praying to baby Jesus, rein­ forcing the truth that every­one, even St. Nicholas, must kneel be­ fore the King of kings and Lord of lords.

CHRISTMAS DAY

Christmas is an ancient Christian word that comes from Latin and signifies “to send Christ” or “Christ is sent” -an entirely appropriate label!

We don’t know the exact date of Christ’s birth. The early Christian Church chose December 25 as the common date upon which all Christians throughout the world would commemorate the birth of Christ. Part of the reason this date was chosen was that it was already a popular pagan holiday. Centuries ago Christian converts were under intense pressure to maintain their pagan religious ties be­ cause of cultural and social traditions. The Church understood this pressure and sought to supersede pagan tradi­tions with ones that gave glory to the true Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We tell our children, “Be­fore Jesus was born, many people who did not know about the true God wor­shiped false gods, idols. They had holidays for their idols. After Jesus came, the Church wanted all Christians to have a special day to remember and celebrate Jesus’ birthday. They chose the same day as one of the pagan festivals as a way to show that Jesus Christ is the only true God and that His birthday is more im­portant than anything hav­ing to do with an idol. Choosing that day for Christ­mas is sort of like a picture of how God deals with peo­ple. When people don’t be­lieve in God, they are like the pagans and nothing they do pleases God. When they become Christians and love Jesus, the Holy Spirit transforms them into people who please God.”

We anticipate Christmas long before December 25. Our church has special “advent” (Christ’s coming) services each Wednesday for four weeks before Christ­mas. These special services ready our hearts for Christ­mas and tum our eyes away from crass commercialization and hectic holiday schedules and toward the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Sometimes we get busy and we are tempted to skip a week; our pastor reminds us, if we spent as much time preparing our hearts for Christmas as we did our homes, we would be in great shape spiritually!

CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS

Through the weeks approaching Christmas, I get out special Christmas objects before Christmas that remind us of Christ’s coming. Our advent wreath marks the four Sundays before Christmas with the ring of evergreen signifying God’s everlasting love and the candles reminding us that Christ is the light of the world.

The first week we light a gold candle, reminding us of the prophets who announced Christ’s coming. The second week we light the gold and the white candles, the white signifying the angels who announced Christ’s birth to the shepherds. The third week we light the gold, white, and green candles, the green signifying the shepherds, who told about the angel’s message. On the Sunday before Christmas we light all four candles, the last, purple one reminding us of the royal wise men who came to worship Jesus.

Each week we read appropriate parts of the nativity story during our candle lighting, and each week the light from the wreath gets brighter. On Christmas Eve we light a large red candle in the center of the wreath. This signifies the coming of Jesus Christ, who was born a baby, but who later shed His blood so that we can have eternal life.

Our creche or nativity scene is also very important to us. We bought large plaster figures at a craft shop and painted them together as a family. The younger children painted the easier pieces, and Dad and Mom painted the difficult details. Even with the splotches and nicks each piece has earned over the years, the children’s faces still light up with warm recognition as each piece is unwrapped and set on the hearth. We leave the figure of baby Jesus wrapped up carefully until Christmas Eve. Our youngest child has the special honor of unwrapping it and placing it carefully in the manger.

Some of the ornaments on our Christmas tree copy ancient Christian symbols and reflect important Chris­tian teaching. Crosses re­ mind us that Christ died for us. Triangles represent the Trinity. Circles symbol­ize that Jesus, even though He was born as a baby, is eternal. Shepherds’ crooks remind us that Jesus is our great Shepherd.

Many of our ornaments have been given to us over the years by friends and family members. As we unpack them each year and hang them on our tree, we talk about the people who gave them to us. The orna­ments remind us to pray for those we may not see regularly anymore.

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS

At our house, we begin anticipating Christmas in October, when we buy inexpensive pumpkins, bake them, and use the pulp for pumpkin bread, which we freeze for Christmas presents. We have a good family time mixing, measuring, cooking, and talking about the special friends who will receive our gifts. We start looking forward to Jesus’ birthday, when God sent His only Son to us as the best present of all. Our pumpkin bread represents our love for our friends, but most important, it should represent God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ.

Our family keeps gift-giving to a minimum of special, meaningful gifts. Each gift, eagerly anticipated by our children, is another reminder of the One Gift.

Each member of our family prepares a special gift for Jesus each year. Weeks of discussion, prayer, and thought go into selecting a promise for the next year that will please Jesus. It may take a positive form (“My gift to Jesus is to promise to spend more time playing with my little brother”), or a negative form (“My gift to Jesus is to promise not to call my sister names anymore”). The promise is printed on a card and decorated for Jesus. On Christmas morning we have a birthday cake for Jesus, sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, share our Jesus presents with each other, and pray as a family that we will be able to fulfill our promises.

The repetition, the anticipation, the repeated telling of the gospel in different ways through presents, traditions, and family times, combine as a powerful reinforcement of Christian truth. Although Christmas has been secularized and commercialized by many people, Christians can use Christmas as a vehicle for the gospel. Let us approach this Christmas echoing the glory expressed by the angel: “‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.'” (Luke 2:10-11).


Taken from Discipleship Journal, Issue 36.

Comments:

  1. I absolutely love this! I will surely be saving these traditions for my family one day. God bless you and your family ❤️❤️

  2. Jeremiah 10.2-5 (NKJV)
    Using a green tree and decorating it, is The LORD GOD.
    Isaiah 30.22 (KJV)
    Speaks about putting ornaments on the trees —
    Jeremiah 10.4 (NKJV)
    Worshipers of satan would decorate the tree, that is how tree trimming began.

    By the way, this was all before CHRIST JESUS was born.
    It had nothing to do with HIS birth.

    Don’t take my word for it.

    Read HIS word.

  3. Another gift idea for Jesus is to give to a local food pantry, homeless shelter, women’s shelter, or crisis pregnancy center. How appropriate to give diapers and baby clothes to someone who desperately needs them to honor Jesus on His birthday!

  4. Thanks for really good descriptions of how to present the purpose of the season is Jesus. And even giving the reason that Dec 25 was chosen. I do wish they had had the research ability to show when the sheep were taken tin or out of the area close enough to where Jesus was born to show up there at the time of his birth. One research said during the fall when the sheep had been brought close to town for the winter. as in Sept. Seems Christmas has been turned back into the expectaion of things, not of God. Sad.
    So glad for your presentation of how to deal with current Christmas. and St. Nicholas.

  5. As we have been transformed by the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, you have demonstrated that Christians can transform and consecrate a holiday to His glory and honor to remind those in darkness of what He has done for us!

  6. Great highlights about the true meaning of Christmas and that Christmas should be an opportunity for us to share the gospel of our lord Jesus Christ. Further more share gifts with our love ones and friends.

    1. Hello, Doug. Thanks for your comment. We neglected to attribute the blog post. It was written by Gretchen Passantino and originally published in Discipleship Journal in 1986.

  7. Thanks for sharing all of this. I would like to know more about Saint Nicholas. Can you provide resource links that verify about the fact that he shared with people about Jesus and was jailed for that. I can’t find any links that indicate that. Thanks for your attention to this

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