MOMENTS WITH THE MINISTER: Santa Claus v. Christ Mass

By Homer McQueen
Special to the Herald Democrat

  I knew a man who declared to his child, “It’s time for you to know the truth about Santa Claus”

     The expression on the little one’s face told him the child had already heard one or more conspiracy theories about the man from the North Pole; and her very own father was about to destroy her dream of joining Santa in his global mission to spread Christmas cheer.  Not wanting to crush his firstborn, the father chose his next words very carefully.

     “You see, Santa is really the spirit of Christmas-“

      To his surprise, her countenance brightened with relief.  “I’m glad you told me that, Daddy.  I always wondered how he got into our house, with the doors and windows locked, and no chimney.  But, a spirit can go through walls.”

     Maybe next year, he thought, we’ll continue this conversation.

     Nobody knows exactly when Jesus of Nazareth was born. The Bible nowhere speaks of celebrating the birth of our Savior.  The celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth on December 25 was an effort by the early Church to compete with the winter festivals of idol worshippers, common features of which were bright colors and exaggerated lighting.  The Church called its celebration Christ Mass.

     Even now families are going into debt with Christmas decorations in an unconscious effort to counter the depression that results from reduced winter daylight and the monotonous gray of the sky and brown of the landscape.

     Enter Santa Claus.  The attention given this individual has inspired conservative Christians to proclaim “Jesus is the reason for the season!”  And I joined the chorus.

     Is Santa a personification of the Spirit of giving, of joy, of love?  God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son as the first and greatest Christmas gift.  If the Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is allowed to work in us, we, too, shall be willing givers.

     Around the 4th Century, AD, Nicholas, a wealthy man of Asia Minor, now Turkey, accepted Christ as Lord of his life.  He became aware that there was a poor man whose three daughters could not marry because he could not offer dowries to potential husbands.  Nicholas went into the house while the family was away.  He found the daughters’ freshly washed stockings hanging by the fireplace to dry, and filled them with gold coins.  This was one of many acts of kindness attributed to him.  The Church declared him a saint.

     Veneration of St. Nick spread to other countries.  The Dutch called him Saint Nikolass, and abbreviated his name as Sinter Klass.  When British colonists settled in New York, Dutch colonists were already there.  Thus Santa Claus came to America.

     December is loaded with with bright and colorful celebrations, including the Feast of St. Nicholas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, the beginning of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and the birthday of this writer.  Some people refuse to acknowledge special days.  Romans 14:5,6 tells this is not a matter of contention for God, and therefore should not matter to us. 

     So, what about Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, or however you might personify the Spirit of Christmas?  Thomas Paine’s declaration, “These are the times that try men’s souls,” applies to our time as it did in colonial America.  God is love.  What this fragmented world needs is more love.  If we bless one another, the light we need is released in our lives, too. 

     Merry Christmas to you.  And a blessed 2021, too.

Homer McQueen

Homer McQueen serves as assistant pastor of Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ, secretary at In His Shadow Outreach Ministries, chaplain for the Sherman District Parole Office, ministry volunteer for the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a part-time pharmacist, and a full-time husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.