As a child growing up, I, like other children, couldn’t wait for the ‘the most wonderful day of the year’ to arrive. Aside from my birthday, Christmas felt completely magical to me. With Santa Claus at the center of the celebrations, there wasn’t much room to acknowledge the spiritual significance or purpose of Christmas in our home. So for me, it was all about the anticipation of Santa’s arrival. I was so enamoured by the idea that there was someone who saw me when I was sleeping; someone who saw me when I was good (and bad), and yet always wanted to give special treasures that fit so nicely in their decorated boxes and wrappings under our tree. I enjoyed knowing that I could ‘cast my cares’ on this generous, loving, grandfatherly-man, in the form of a ‘wishlist’ for Christmas, and He would never disappoint come December 25th.
Santa Claus and I had a particularly close relationship that was solidified through a mug of hot chocolate and freshly-baked cookies my brother and I left in anticipation for him. He in return would leave behind the remnants of dried cocoa clumps stuck to the bottom of the cup and tiny morsels of cookie crumbs on the plate, which in my mind, only assured me of the closeness we shared.
The thought that I was loved by someone outside of my family, and could somehow be seen from afar, thrilled me. Adding to the excitement, were all the beautifully colored illustrations of Santa’s village my story books depicted. The notion that Santa would be willing to leave behind such a grand estate, and come down and enter the world in which I lived so he could bless me with treasured gifts, only served to intensify my adoration for him. From my child-like perception, no one could be more giving than Santa Claus!
Then one day, when I was about 9 years old, I was told that Santa would no longer be paying a visit to our home. It was conveyed to me that the jolly old man who I just knew valued me; no longer existed.
I was devastated.
On the day my mother blurted this information out, she conveyed that her intention was to simply speak truth, so that I would no longer be living under false beliefs. Yet sadly, no further truth about the real ‘Father Christmas’ was shared in its place. It wouldn’t be until many years later that I’d learn, that though I had perceived having had a great relationship with the infamous white-bearded old man who had eight tiny reindeer; there was another, greater being than Santa.
That individual is Jesus.
Many hardships and extreme losses (aside from the loss of that sweet, kind man in the classic red suit), would accompany my childhood. Significant hurts and wounds I endured during my younger years, beat down on my heart like oppressive piles of coal. But Jesus, the man who truly knew when I was sleeping; who knew when I was ‘bad or good’, was in pursuit of a real relationship with me because of an immeasurable love that simply couldn’t be confined to a holiday season. He wouldn’t just emerge on the scene when I was sleeping on Christmas Eve, and leave behind some shiny wrapped trinkets that would one day be discarded because I outgrew them. No…because the wondrous gifts the Lord would bring weren’t constrained by boxes and bows.
The Lord’s gifts would exceed any other gifts ever bestowed upon me. The presents He would lavish me with would bring shape to my character; bring peace to my once chaotic life; and free me from the bondage of sin. They would also reconcile my restless spirit to the Father which would, in turn, provide everlasting life. Jesus’ gifts would grow me, and not be gifts that I would outgrow. But His abundant gift-giving wouldn’t stop there. He would also deliver “gifts of the spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:4), and unlike Santa, the Lord Jesus would never leave me or forsake me. He would never stop His gift-giving because I grew too old to receive them. It would be His love that drove the delivery of these gifts to me, not some fancy sleigh or reindeer. (see Matt 7:11)
I grew to learn that there are several other, significant differences between Santa Claus and Jesus Christ…such as the home from which they travelled. My childhood Christmas hero was one who had been described to me as living in a splendid place called “The North Pole”. He was the ‘head honcho’ of the most amazing workshop I had ever imagined as a child. Yet the real Christmas hero; Jesus, was there in the beginning, (Genesis 1), and the entire Universe was His workshop. His workmanship during creation would be inconceivable to even my adult mind.
Jesus left His paradise (Heaven), in order to come down to earth for much more than filling my closets with ‘treasures that moths and thieves destroy’ (Matt 6:19). He knew my heart would be best served by filling it with eternal things that would never perish. Jesus became flesh, so I could walk in the spirit. He was born of man, so I could be reborn of the spirit. He took on human weakness, so I could be made strong in Him. He entered the world under lowly circumstances, so I could ascend one day into the heights of heaven. And later He would lay down His life, so I could have eternal life.
My interactions with Santa Claus as a child were limited to my sending him a letter once a year. Yet with God, my encounters are limitless due to the Holy Spirit who works on my behalf (Romans 8:26-27). My relationship with the Lord is made right, through the work Jesus did on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:18). And there’s no need for a stamp, or a long wait for my communications to be received. Jesus has an infinite amount of time for me, and others, who wish to correspond with Him.
As a child there was nothing more humbling for me than awakening to Santa having consumed the hot chocolate I had left for him; until I learned of the cup ‘Jesus drank for me’ (Luke 22:42; Matt 26:39; John 18:11). Jesus came down from Heaven to pour out His grace and mercy on me, while God the Father poured wrath (intended for me); on Him. The ‘cup’ intended for me to drink because of the sin that dwells inside of me, (and all of mankind) was the cup Jesus drank on my behalf “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” ( Romans 6:23). Because the Lord delighted in spending eternity with me, He chose to drink from a bitter cup, unlike the savory hot chocolate intended for Santa.
As a child I used to envision what it would be like to fly above the clouds in Santa’s sleigh to his spectacular workshop. Yet one fine day the Lord will transport me on a flight beyond my wildest imagination! I’ll go to a destination far above the North Pole, where there are ‘many rooms’ (John 14:2) in which the Lord God Himself has prepared a place for me (talk about an amazing workshop!). It’s a place where the dazzling color of gold isn’t found wrapped around temporary trees of the Christmas season, but upon the streets which we’ll walk (Revelation 21:21).
Every one of us can experience gifts that are truly treasured during the Christmas season, (or any season) when we take the time to believe that there’s a gift waiting for us through God’s provision; His Son. Only then can we choose to receive this amazing gift of salvation from the One whose gift, no box can hold.