The Santa Seminar and the Lost War on Christmas
By Johnathan Pritchett
Break out the beads, everyone. The Quest for the Historical Santa is on yet again! The amusing thing about social media is the overwhelming interest people on it have in “uncovering the truth” about anything with a mythos attached to it. This is so regardless of how great or small the subject. Such exercises in trivia are fascinating because of the seriousness with which people approach these things. Turns out, it has unintended upsides.
In any case, it is Christmas season once again. This time of year usually brings with it a season of stupidity all around for culture warriors on all sides of the debates. These are the people who go about looking to rob normal people of their holiday cheer. You have annoying atheists protesting nativity scenes on public grounds, or feigning needless offense at anything religious anywhere because they are grumpy. You have conservative talk show hosts who barely attend church trying to rile up Evangelicals, insisting that they are persecuted anytime a joyless pagan insists upon “happy holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” There was even a fake controversy this year about coffee cups that was most notable for Christians bothering to insist that they weren’t offended by it.
Is there a war on Christmas?
Yes and no. For starters, a better case was made a few years ago about there being a war on Advent. Sadly, some protestant Evangelicals (Baptist types mostly) have joined forces with the pagans against their Catholic and mainline brethren on that front. The good news is that more and more Evangelicals in search for a robust orthodoxy and sense of reverent Christian tradition are coming back around to celebrating the Advent season. This is an encouraging development. Besides, who doesn’t love the LEGO™ Advent calendars?
While a case could be made for a “War on Christmas,” the best thing to do is call it what it is and ignore it. For one thing, it is dumb. For another, it is a lost cause. However, it is also dumb for Christians to allow it to rob them of their joy. God sent his Son Jesus to save us, and the rest doesn’t much matter. Whatever war on Christmas there may be, those who oppose Christ have already lost it. Christ has gifted Christians with several advantages this time of year, and in joy, we should avail ourselves of them as an opportunity to talk Jesus to everyone.
- The Historical Santa points us to Christ.
Poor pagans, atheists, skeptics, and non-believers of any stripe, Jesus just can’t be screened out despite all the valiant efforts. Even the social media Quest for the Historical Santa can’t be separated from Christianity. Clement Clark Moore and Thomas Nast had to go to the Christian well to develop the mythos of Santa. St. Nicholas (270-343 A.D.) was known, among other things, for his gift-giving in the name of Jesus. Those who take up this quest may even learn a thing or two about Christology. This being a good thing for everyone, since we celebrate the incarnation this time of year. The more edgy among the hipsters might even enjoy the bit where he reportedly punched Arius in the face because of his heresy. Even the Calvinists in Holland don’t hate on that, and I don’t either.
- Even the Tree got Baptized
Smarmy pagans, and some even more smarmy Christians, never fail to point to the pagan roots of the Christmas Tree and the various solstice celebrations that used to be popular this time of year. Adonia, Baccus, and Woden, oh my! Well…whatever. The moment the season became dominated by Christian victory over paganism, the tree got baptized with a star on top that points the way to the victor. Christ is the victor over sin and idolatry, and among other things, the Christmas Tree (oh Christmas Tree) is a welcome reminder of that. Sorry paganism, you lose again.
- Jesus is the Reason for the Season
Sadly, the phrase sounds trite to even many Christians these days. You know, the silly ones opposed to any and all Evangelical catch-phrases. Well, the fact remains: Jesus is the only reason why anyone anywhere actually celebrates Christmas at all. This is the case whether anyone likes it or not. No Jesus, no Christmas. It is that simple. Regardless of how secular people are, if they like presents, carols, time off work for family and friends, and all the rest, they should be sure to thank Jesus for it. Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth, but primarily because of the accomplishment in his death and resurrection that was the culmination of his perfect life. Not only is Jesus the means of salvation, but that truth is also the reason why his victory is seen everywhere this time of year. The Quest for the Historical Santa can’t remove Jesus. Just as Christ is Lord of the real St. Nicholas, so Christ is also the Lord over the mythical Claus just as God is sovereign over the mythical Leviathan. Even contestants on The Voice this year were lining up to sing carols about his Lordship. Linus van Pelt understood this as well, and so he too read:
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:11-14)
So relax, everyone, and be filled with joy.
Christ is Lord despite all the noise. Repent and believe if you haven’t. If not, simply get over it and give thanks to Jesus for the holiday regardless.