WHOSE DAY IS IT!
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom God favors!” (Luke 2.13-14)
It must have been a frightening vision to see light, angels and the announcement of the birth that they brought. The description of the event in Luke, chapter 2, is a most unusual, extraordinary description. But it was necessary to signal the cataclysmic entry of God into history. The baby Jesus would grow up to be the long-expected Savior. Alleluia!
On the other hand, there is a person, or legend, that competes for our attention at Christmastide. It is the legend of Santa Claus. Here are the words of the most famous hymn about Santa:
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, checking it twice;
Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town.
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.
My sincere apologies to those of you who love Santa and who enjoy the legend and all that goes with it. And I might note that both my sons and their children believed in Santa when they were children. We enjoyed the legend together.
But who is Santa and where is his place in the manger scene?
When you think about the words to the hymn above, you begin to think that Santa sounds a lot like God or Jesus. “He knows if you’ve been bad or good.” Sounds like the judgment scene in Mathew 25 (bad = goats, good = sheep). He keeps a list of those who are naughty and those who are nice. According to the legend, those who are naughty receive a lump of coal and those who are nice receive toys and candy. This part of the legend dates back to the 1820’s, along with reindeer, bells, elves, and sleigh (the normal means of transportation then).
More disturbing is the notion that we should be good for goodness sake. What does this mean? Does it mean we can earn Santa’s favor? Sounds like earning God’s favor – something Lutherans would never say. The best element of the Santa legend is that he is all about gift giving. Here is the genuine connection to the Nativity of Our Lord. On Christmas, God is giving us the greatest gift of all – a Savior.
I do not want to be a ‘wet blanket’, a ‘party pooper’ or so serious I can’t have fun with Christmas. I merely want us to take a second look at the nativity story. Take time to appreciate the miraculous birth of our Savior. There is much to celebrate here, at the manger. Think of the extraordinary elements of the story: Angels appearing to shepherds and shepherdesses, a virgin birth among the animals, three impressive, wealthy strangers and their entourage. These elements alone are enough to contemplate.
I am not suggesting that you give up Santa and appear like the Grinch who stole Christmas. I am suggesting that you focus good, quality time with your family, reviewing the story of Jesus’ birth, appreciating its meaning for you and giving thanks for the gift of Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Savior. You might find some Christian oriented exercises or rituals that your family can do together. If you need ideas, feel free to contact me.
A most Blessed Christmas to all the families of PLUM. And may God surround you with grace and love in the year to come.
+Pastor Paul Koch
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773