Santa is Helpless

This year, children in the United States are asking Santa for clothes and food. The United States Postal Service has a “secret Santa” program that attempts to connect letters written to Santa with people willing to donate such gifts. Honestly, it’s not a bad idea for a program, all things concerned. Two heartbreaking things spiral out of this story:

First is the obvious: so many children feel the need to ask Santa for basic needs. For many, the cause of this need is economic hardship in the family. For at least some, the need is due to terrible, selfish parenting. When we hear of a child that simply wants a meal for Christmas, our hearts break.

The other heartbreaking thing is the need for Santa in the first place. “If we are the body, where are His hands reaching?

Santa gives gifts based on perceived merit. Santa says we can do something to deserve gifts. The flipside of this tyrannical gift-giving is that if you don’t get good gifts, you must deserve nothing. If a child is begging for a coat in her letter to Santa, what will she think of herself when Santa doesn’t deliver?

Melanney, 9, asked Santa for a coat and boots. “I have been a very good girl this year,” she wrote.

There is no love in what Santa does. He looks for deserving people and gives them the gifts they deserve. That’s not love; that’s paying wages.

The truth is, we don’t deserve any gifts from Santa. We are all terrible sinners. We are selfish, we are weak, we are evil by nature. To say that we have to work to deserve something is nothing more than works righteousness — and if we’re honest, we come to the conclusion we deserve less than nothing.

Isn’t what Jesus offers so much better? He gives gifts freely. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” (Ephesians 1:7-8) Did you see that? God doesn’t just give gifts. He lavishes them. Does that mean we’ll always have what we want? Thankfully, no. But we do have what we need: forgiveness.

And we, as the church, long to reflect God’s lavish giving.

Santa is helpless to bring aid to those children who are suffering. Nonexistent beings usually are. Even if he did exist, he would offer no comfort and no love. He would give to those who had done good… and what rules would he judge by?

Jesus isn’t helpless. He gives freely. And he has empowered us with his Gospel. He has freed us of our sins and set us free, asking nothing from us. Instead, we want to proclaim thanks. We want to help others. Freely.

And isn’t that better than Santa, anyway?

4 thoughts on “Santa is Helpless

  1. It is interesting how Santa is now the one that is called on for help. It is also sad that these innocent kids are so needy that they need to ask for essentials instead of toys and playthings.

  2. The scorecard against Santa is pretty big what with the redirection away from Jesus (just this Christmas, I saw a light-parade nativity with a Christmas tree in the manger… from a local church?) and obviously most people could use some reminders. He’s also definitely a good-works-bring-you-good-things sort of guy, which might work all right for a social gospel but has nothing to do with a spiritual Gospel.

    Now, while I’m not doing the Santa thing with my own kids, I have to admit that I’ve softened a bit on him in recent years. My mother made the best case for him I’ve heard so far.

    She LOVES Santa, loves everything about the whole mythos. When I asked her about what she liked about him, she said (obviously) that it’s all about his abounding generosity. I challenged her, pointing out that Santa was basically a works-righteousness rolled up into a big stupid pointless fuzzy beardy package.

    Instead of her usual long-windedness, she simply raised her eyebrow and shot back with something like: “Did Santa ever leave you coal in your stockings?”

    Hmmm. An all-knowing judge who knows you’ve been naughty but gives anyway because he loves you? I suppose I don’t have to hate that. In fact, it sounds downright familiar.

    As with most stories, things become clearer when you find you can plant a teeny little Cross right in the middle.

    1. “Hmmm. An all-knowing judge who knows you’ve been naughty but gives anyway because he loves you? I suppose I don’t have to hate that. In fact, it sounds downright familiar.”

      Kudos to your mom.
      That particular thought never occurred to me.
      But I think I like it.

      (We are doing…a whole lot of nothing about/with Santa here. Our kids know him from the old “Frosty the Snowman” tv shows and such. But otherwise the kids are young enough that it really hasn’t come up … yet. But I’ll keep this in mind for future reference.)

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