Santology, Part 2 – Who has the power? (Omnipotent?)

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This is part 2 of a discussion on the sacred and secular struggle many Christian households face during Christmas.  My goal isn’t to condemn secular traditions; rather, to ensure we are thinking about the impact some of our secular traditions have on our spiritual lives.

santology-pt2-power

Christmas is a time to reflect on how God reveals Himself to us.  While we understand that to be true, it is somewhat beyond our understanding of how God operates.  In fact, Christians wouldn’t argue that God is omnipotent (meaning all-powerful); however, we often allow secular Christmas (Santa, Elf on the Shelf…etc) to hold aspects of power without thinking of the potential impact it may have on our spiritual Christmas (Jesus).  While the issues are usually subtle, the impact is often great.

Our all-powerful (omnipotent) God.

Sometimes we misunderstand the tension between ability and willingness. God is fully able to do anything, but not always willing to do what we want Him to do.  God’s goal is to mould and shape us by the experiences in our lives.  To explain this, James wrote:

 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.[i]

God uses his ultimate ability in this way, because he loves us.  God is our heavenly Father who, even though we don’t understand most of the time, disciplines us so that we can grow and mature.  With that said, our choice to either ignore God or embrace God will either end with a real consequence or real reward respectively.

16 For God so loved the world,  that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.[ii]

Out of love, however, God doesn’t wish any of us to be lost forever.  In fact, both 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9, both point to the fact that God’s desire is for all of us to be saved. This of course brings us back to God’s omnipotent power – God is able to save all of us, but, out of love and desire for us to mature, gives us the freedom of choice.

So, what does this mean for our understanding of God’s power and Christmas?

Three things we should understand about God’s omnipotent loving power:

  1. God always can, but not always will;
  2. God loves us in a way that helps us; and,
  3. God’s consequences and rewards are real.

Most of us understand these three spiritual realities; however, when Christmas approaches, we sometimes forget that these spiritual realities are sometimes trumped (or at least downplayed) by Santa and/or Elf on the Shelf.

The “Knotty or Nice List”

Depending on where you go in the world, the consequences of being on the knotty list are different. In our North American context, any child who is “bad” should expect to receive coal Christmas morning.  Some may argue the meaning of receiving such an item, but the general understanding is: if you’re bad, you’ll be on the knotty list, won’t receive the toy you asked for, and instead receive coal.

The Elf on the Shelve has a similar power, in that, if a child is bad, the elf will report to Santa and thus giving the threat of “toy letdown”.

Do we allow Santa to have godly power?

At first, you might laugh at that question! I did!  Over the past few years, I’ve thought about some of the implications, but my attention was seriously turned toward the topic when I saw the movie “Santa Buddies” where kids actually pray to Santa. Have a look:

We may quickly dismiss this as something we don’t do; however, there are some serious threats of a potential negative impact on Christian households.

From what I can see, there are two (2) main issues surrounding this topic:

  1. We give Santa the ability to determine good and bad and resulting consequence or reward.

By focusing our attention on this, Santa becomes the provider and punisher.  If kids are misbehaving, why don’t we focus on the fact that God is always watching (not just during Christmas) and wants what’s best for us, because He loves us.  To me, that’s a message worth focusing on!  That’s a message of hope; much better than “no toys” or “you’ll get coal!”

  1. The “Empty Threat”

Let’s be honest for a minute.  If a child misbehaves to the point of threatening, “you’ll get no gifts on Christmas…”, we all know the threat is as empty as your wallet!  At the end of day, the gifts remain.  The only thing we teach our kids is that consequences aren’t real.

So, what’s the potential impact on our Spiritual lives?

While I know there are many other factors at play other than Santa, a secular focus during Christmas, doesn’t help in combating against these three (3) things:

  1. If God doesn’t, I must have been bad (have sin);
  2. If I experience bad things, God doesn’t love me; and,
  3. It doesn’t matter if I’m bad; consequences are empty.

 

When the real truth could be as far from these three concepts as possible, we need to make sure we focus on the right things during Christmas. We can have fun without giving God’s authority to Santa.  If we do give over that authority, we really take the risk of encouraging these three backward ideas.

What are my options?

As I’ve said before, I am not trying to condemn secular Christmas!  By writing about these issues, I want to make sure we are thinking about the potential impact on our spiritual lives so we focus on the most important things.

Focus more attention on what you want to see.

If you want to use the Elf on the Shelve, maybe you can have a look at the “The Kind Little Elf“.  Instead on using the Elf in terms of a behaviour tool, the Elf encourages acts of kindness throughout the Christmas season.

Reserve godly characteristics for God.

Why do we point to Santa, when God is more powerful?  Have fun with Santa, and when times of behaviour and/or need come into play, make sure to point to God.  When I was a kid, I had an imaginary friend named Mary.  I was the first child, so my imagination took over.  There was no issue with having an imaginary friend.  In fact, creativity and play are encouraged among kids for development.  The problem came in, however, when I used my imaginary friend to hide my parents car keys when we were visiting a friend.  I didn’t know where the keys were, because Mary had hid them.  Long story short, my father asked me to ask Mary to get the keys (in the father-like serious tone no kid can ignore)!  The fact is, using imagination isn’t the problem.  The problem is when our imagination trumps or goes against important truths.  Parents have the responsibility of working through that tension.

Your turn! Have you ever noticed Santa was allowed some godly attributes?  What have you done as a parent/grand-parent/friend to counteract this issue?

Click here for PART 1


[i] James 1:2-4, ESV.

[ii] John 3:16-17, ESV.

Santology, Part 1 – What do you focus on? (Christian HOPE)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

As a young father, my mind is racing to ensure my wife and I help create an atmosphere by where our daughter is able to focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, while never feeling deprived of the fun aspects of Christmas. This is part 1 of a discussion on the sacred and secular struggle many Christian households face during Christmas.  My goal isn’t to condemn secular traditions or to ban certain behavior; rather, to ensure we are thinking about the impact some of our secular traditions have on our spiritual lives.

santology-pt1-hope

Christmas is a time of BELIEF and HOPE.  If you were to ask most Christians what Christmas truly means, I would think most would give you an answer regarding Jesus and how he came to this earth as a baby.  It’s the result of amazing prophecy fulfillment, and the anchor to our spiritual hope.  The question that remains, however, is do we actually focus on the spiritual (what we believe: Jesus) and add the secular (Santa, Elf on the Shelf…etc), or do we focus on the secular and add the spiritual?

Let’s first define what we believe.  Isaiah prophesied the coming of a Saviour about 700 years before Jesus was born…

“…the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (meaning God with us).”[i]

That puts a new perspective on the first few verses of Matthew’s gospel.  The listing of generations not only proves Jesus can be traced back to Abraham, but that there were so many generations waiting for Isaiah’s words to come true.

Their HOPE was built on their BELIEF, and their BELIEF was built on the UNKNOWN. Their unknown, however, wasn’t a question of IF, rather, the unknown of WHEN and HOW.

Our belief today stems from this fulfillment of prophecy, but extends far beyond.  Jesus was born, he taught, lived on the earth and took all of our sin, pain and grief to the cross with Him.  Fortunately for us, our Christian hope even extends beyond that.  Our hope isn’t built on a man who was MARTYRED, or SELFLESS, had great LEADERSHIP, or even had great IMPACT.  Jesus, and many other spiritual leaders did all of those things.  Our hope today is built on NEW LIFE!  The reason that Christianity spread like wild fire was because Christ conquered death and rose from the grave!  The message that was being proclaimed was:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”[ii]

This is the same message for today, and our hope and belief extend to our future eternal life with God.  It’s a HOPE like no other religion – a hope of LIFE!

Our HOPE is built on our BELIEF, and our BELIEF is built on the UNKNOWN.  Just like those before us, our unknown isn’t a question of IF; rather, the unknown of WHEN and HOW.

We need to focus on our Christian HOPE.  In a world where “spiritual belief” seems to be at an all-time low, are we downplaying our unique HOPE if we allow ourselves to focus on anything else?  Are we being strategic enough to show others our Christian HOPE?  Are we trying to spiritualize the secular, so we don’t feel bad if we don’t focus on the spiritual?  Are we making more excuses as we read this?

Sometimes I think we try to navigate through the secular Christmas (ie. Santa) and try to add our spiritual Christmas (ie. Christ) so that we keep ourselves in check.  For example, we may have a manger with Santa bowing down to Jesus.  While we have good intentions, I think we may be missing the mark.  You may laugh when I say this but, “I’m not trying to get Santa saved!” It doesn’t matter if Santa, a make-believe secular Christmas character, is bowing to Jesus.  If we’re trying to get Santa saved, we’re focusing on the wrong things.  We need to focus on the available HOPE that is much bigger than anything secular Christmas could ever offer!  Paul told us:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”[iii]

Because we have a HOPE like no other, we need to live in the world, but not allow the world to shape us.  The challenge then, is to focus on God’s will for us – “what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  That doesn’t necessarily mean to stop doing everything secular; we live in a secular world and can’t avoid that.

The challenge is to live in a secular world, but shine with HOPE; with Christ at the center, not Santa.

Connect the dots.

Ever draw a connect the dots picture? There are a series of dots with numbers and if you connect each dot in sequence with a line, a picture is revealed.  Here’s the question I have for you:

If you were to connect the dots of your Christmas season (ie. Christmas activities, outings, parties, traditions, church events, family gatherings, etc…), what would your final picture look like?

The answer to that question should tell you what the focus of your Christmas is.  Whatever the answer may be, that’s the answer your household will see.

If you see CHRIST, your household will see CHRIST, and deicide whether or not to believe.  If you see SANTA, your household will see SANTA, and decide whether or not to believe.  Nothing is for certain, but the focus will always be seen.

The scary part, and we will continue with this in the rest of the series, is if we focus on Santa, our belief becomes about Santa and we actually allow him to even have some godly attributes.  This of course is dramatically different if Christ is our focus.

With that said, I don’t have all the answers as to how this is done correctly.  What I do know, is that together, with God’s help, we can live the life He has called us to live!

Your turn!  How are you strategic about your Christian HOPE during Christmas?  Do you think secular Christmas has changed in 30 years?  How does that impact your Christian HOPE?

Click here for Part 2


[i] Isaiah 7:14, ESV.

[ii] Romans 8:11, ESV.

[iii] Romans 12:2, ESV.