I can’t get my kids to stop believing in Santa. Believe me, I’ve tried. Not once have my wife and I told them that Santa – red suit, reindeer and all – is coming to town. We have never made hoof-prints in the yard or boot prints in the living room. Santa’s name has never appeared on a gift in our home; we will take the credit thank you very much!
Don’t mishear what I’m saying; there’s nothing wrong with doing that if you so choose.
As a kid, I remember leaving out milk and cookies for Santa at least once (which were half eaten in the morning) and we received gifts both from our parents and from Santa. I’m pretty sure I even received a gift from Santa as a college student! If you do those sorts of things with your kids, more power to you. My wife and I have simply decided not to start those particular traditions in our family.
Now, we have told our kids about Saint Nicholas; how he loved Jesus and was very kind to children. But the omnipotent, omnipresent, jolly fat man who “sees you when you’re sleeping,” and “knows when you’ve been bad or good,” is just a little too creepy for us, not to mention attributes deistic qualities to a personality who serves as the symbol of secular Christmas.
I will admit, however, that saying the real/original Santa lived and died a long time ago has had some unintended consequences. Last Christmas, our youngest actually told some other kid at school quite emphatically that “Santa is dead!”
The point is we have told all three kids that the Santa at the mall who lives at the North Pole doesn’t actually deliver gifts Christmas Eve or come down the chimney. Still, just because we told them the truth doesn’t mean they believe it.
People don’t believe simply because they are convinced by physical proof. They believe because they choose to regardless of how much or how little physical proof exists.
Before you jump all over me with “What about doubting Thomas?” let me cut you off at the pass. In John 20:24-29, we learn that Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them after the resurrection. When the eleven others reported Christ’s appearance to him, He chose not to believe their testimony.
“Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.” (John 20:25)
To put it another way, “Unless I get physical evidence, I choose not to believe.”
He greets everyone and then immediately focuses in on Thomas saying, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put in into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
And what is Thomas’ response? Does he do the things he said he needed to do before he would believe? Does he put his finger where the nails were? Does he place his hand into Jesus’ side? If he does, it’s not recorded. I think it’s not recorded because I doubt it ever happened. Thomas didn’t need to do those things; he simply chose to take Jesus’ advice to “stop doubting and believe.”
I also don’t think Jesus expected Thomas to touch the nail holes or His side. I think Jesus’ whole point in saying the words He chose was to let Thomas know that Jesus knows Him. He saw Thomas say those things and echoes them back. He knows Thomas’ heart. He wants Thomas to experience intimacy with Him and gives Thomas the opportunity to choose it for himself.
In September 2015, shortly after my wife and I began attending Faith Center Church, a guest speaker came to town for the weekend. His name was Ruckins Mckinley and he has the gift of prophecy. Ruckins was calling people on stage, he was laying hands on people as he spoke prophetic words over them and then many of those people would faint or stumble backward or fall to the ground.
This was a new experience to me. It wasn’t so much weird as it was strange – different. I remember sitting in the service, watching what was happening up front, and I had a moment. I thought to myself, “Either I believe what’s happening here is truly God’s Spirit at work, or I don’t; but I need to pick one.”
I chose to believe.
Once I made that decision, something amazing happened. It was as if scales were lifted from my eyes. I began seeing everything in a new light. I could literally sense God’s Spirit moving in the room. I chose to believe and my faith was rewarded.
I hear a lot of people say that if they only had a little more proof that Jesus is Who He said He is, then they would believe. What they are really saying is that they are too scared to choose to believe and simply want the choice to be made for them. They want undeniable proof so they have no choice but to believe. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works.
Consider the Jews in John 10:24. They ask Jesus, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Uh, maybe they weren’t paying attention.
According to my Bible, some of the things that have happened in the first 10 chapters of John are as follows:
- John the Baptist declared that Jesus was “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” and testified that He “is the Son of God.” (John 1:29,34)
- Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. (John 2:1-11)
- Jesus broke cultural barriers to speak to a Samaritan woman and as a result, “many Samaritans from that town believed in Him.” (John 4:39)
- Jesus healed the son of a royal official, who (coincidentally) chose to believe his son was healed because Jesus said so even before he saw the physical proof. (John 4:46-53)
- The Jews witnessed Jesus heal a lame man on the Sabbath and chose to focus on the legality of the Sabbath rather than the miracle of the healing. (John 5:1-15)
- 5,000 men along with even more women and children ate until their hunger was satisfied all from a sack lunch some boy’s mother had packed for him. (John 6:9, 12-13)
- Jesus walked on water…what!?! (John 6:16-21)
- Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and He who believes in Me will never be thirsty.” Notice the Jews grumbled about this. (John 6:35, 41)
- Then there’s the whole back and forth Jesus has with the Jews in John 8, culminating in verses 58-59 when Jesus flat out tells them “I AM God!” (I wrote about this in a previous post under the heading “John: the disciple whom Jesus loved” if you want to check it out.)
But maybe all that’s just in my Bible.
The Jews had plenty of evidence from which to draw a conclusion. That’s why Jesus replied to the Jews’ request by saying, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in My Father’s name speak for Me, but you do not believe…”
Everyone today has all the evidence they need to choose whether they will believe or not. The problem is we always want more.
You probably remember the scene in The Santa Clause where Neil is questioning Charlie trying to debunk his belief in Santa. He first asks how it’s possible for one man to travel the globe to visit every boy and girl in the world. Charlie lets him know that not everyone celebrates Christmas; plus there’s the time continuum that breaks down once Santa is in his sleigh.
Neil’s second question has to do with the fact that not every house has a fireplace. Charlie informs him that Santa turns into jello and a fireplace appears and he just slides right in. (Duh, Neil.)
Finally Neil asks, “What about the reindeer? Have you ever seen a reindeer fly?”
Neil: “Well I haven’t.”
Charlie: “Have you ever seen a million dollars?”
Charlie: “Just because you haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
Santa Claus (aka Ed Asner) in Elf would agree with Charlie. He said, “Christmas spirit is about believing, not seeing!”
We were watching Elf as a family a few days ago and my daughter asked my wife, “Do you believe in Santa?”
Wife: “No, I believe in St. Nick.”
Daughter: “Who’s St. Nick?”
Wife: “You know who he is; we’ve told you before. He’s the man who lived a long time ago who gave gifts to all the children in need.”
Daughter: “Oh yeah, now I remember…I believe in both of them.”
Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, my kids still choose to believe in Santa Claus. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Jews chose not to believe in Jesus. It’s all about making a choice.
It seems to me that in light of the overwhelming evidence documented in Scripture, other non-Scriptural sources (such as the writings of the first century Jewish historian, Josephus), as well as the world around us, choosing to believe Jesus is the Messiah is a no-brainer. But it’s not about the evidence; it’s about making a choice.
Thankfully, while my kids may still choose to believe in Santa, they have also made the choice to believe in Jesus. I’m totally fine if they choose to believe in both.