There’s a woman whose blog I greatly enjoy and have followed for years. It’s mostly a knitting blog, but every year she writes so movingly about Christmas that I was astonished to discover, last year, that she’s an atheist. She doesn’t believe in God.
Christmas without Jesus is Santa Claus. Christmas without Jesus is Rudolph instead of Joy to the World, crowded malls instead of silent nights, “a tale told by an idiot: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
The blogger would disagree, I feel sure. She would talk of Solstice, of the ancient customs commemorating the return of the light, or of the importance of celebrating family and friends.
And I think, but that’s not Christmas. That’s easier.
On the other hand, many of my Christian friends are advocating doing away with Santa Claus entirely. Tell the kids that it’s baby Jesus’s birthday, and he’s sharing his gifts. They can still have presents–just remember the Reason for the Season, and leave out the fat man struggling to get down the chimney. Make it real.
For most of us, that’s too hard. There’s a reason we all talk up Santa Claus. It’s not that we, as Christian adults, really believe the jolly bearded guy has anything more important to offer than the Savior of all humankind. I mean, of course we don’t. The problem is that it’s very difficult to grasp the Savior of all humankind, even as an infant, even in a stable. We can’t wrap our small brains around the Word Became Flesh. We lack the capacity to really understand God manifest in the infant Jesus. We tell our children about Santa Claus because it’s easier for them to think that a crazy old man breaks into their house once a year, leaving behind plastic toys, than it is for them to think about the creator of the universe distilled into a child. It’s also so much easier for us. Santa is mythical the way dragons are mythical; most of us find dragons easier to understand than saints. And saints are easier than God. And God, the bearded Guy in the sky, is so much easier than that tiny, vulnerable, venerable child.
“Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!” Help us, oh God, to see you clearly. Open our eyes to your wild, difficult truth.