It’s that time of year for us to realize how far societies tend to veer from the true essence of things. We live in a desperately superficial culture that is too often satisfied with veneers. If it’s shiny and new and untouched by real life, it strangely gives us the false assurance that it will last forever.
Anyone can package up junk and put a nice shimmery bow on it and pass it off as the got-to-have-it-or-you’ll-die item of the season. Even when what’s inside is genuine and something we truly need, too many are content with the outer misleading packaging.
In a selfie-obsessed, soundbite-fed, hashtag-driven world we are fixated with mere reflections and obvious distortions. Holidays have become exactly that. Are we okay with the reality that most of them have devolved into conduits for filling real or virtual store shelves with junk we don’t need and meanings divorced from their original intent? I’m not going to blame capitalism. No one is forcing us to spend our money on emptiness.
Many of America’s churches, sadly, lead in the superficialization of the most sacred of holidays by delivering an enticingly packaged Christ, all year round, who might as well be Santa. He’s been so stripped of the true nature of who He is—love, mercy, grace, righteousness, righteous anger, compassion, intolerance (of sin), forgiveness—that he’s become a caricature. Is it any wonder so many children put equal value in Christ and Claus? Interestingly, it’s okay for Santa to be judgmental as he decides who has been naughty or nice. But today’s westernized Jesus is someone who not only accepts everyone as they are, He’s perfectly fine with them intentionally remaining as they are, sinful behaviors and all.
But this facsimile of Jesus denies us of the most beautiful gift of love He offers us: redemption and transformation. There is an ever-widening void in our spiritually craving culture that is being filled by relativism and revisionism. Jesus and Saint Nicholas are hardly distinguishable as both are dim reflections of the real flesh and blood persons who represent(ed) each name. Jesus, the only Son of God, became one of us because our Creator loved us enough to rescue us from ourselves.
That deliverance was in the form of a child, born to a poor yet courageous teenage mother and a father who chose adoption over abandonment. Christ chose to die for us in a brutal display of self-sacrificial love. Saint Nicholas, a Greek who served as a bishop in Myra, Turkey during the 4th century, was a fierce defender of this Savior in a time when priests were killed for not renouncing their faith. He was one of the signers of the revolutionary Nicene Creed.
I like that Santa more. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against imaginative creations. I’m a creative professional, and I enjoy make-believe in the right place and time. Sadly, too many don’t–or can’t–distinguish between faith and fantasy and render holidays like Christmas meaningless. Instead, they fill it with commercial clutter instead of simple clarity.
There is a Savior who continues to love, continues to redeem and doesn’t need to be repackaged for a 21st century world.