Since today is Saint Nicholas Day, here’s one from the vault:
Look, I’ve got no beef with Santa Claus (here pictured in his original likeness as a 4th century bishop in Turkey).
I’ve got no beef with the red-faced, portly merry version of Santa either. I’m not one of these robotronic, literalist Christians who think everything not explicitly spelled out in the bible is pagan. You know, the ones who protested the first Harry Potter movie for promoting witchcraft? Talk about picking a losing cultural argument.
So, no, no problem here with Saint Nick.
Red-nosed reindeer, elves working for poverty wages, your kids writing letters to a fictional person, the mathematical impossibility of visiting every child’s house in every nook and cranny of the earth in 24 hours when it took me something like 4 1/2 days to get to Cambodia on a vehicle fueled by, you know, fuel instead of hooves, which presumably have a hard time getting traction, conditioning our children into consumer capitalism with an amalgam of myths…I don’t have a problem with any of it. I don’t think it’s idolatry, undermines the faith or sets our children up to question everything else once they learn the Christmas con.
Nope, I think wonder, imagination, and fantasy are a great and normal part of a healthy childhood. So bring it on.
The past few days my son has been talking about how if he’s ‘on the naughty list then Santa won’t bring [me] any gifts. He watches us all the time to see if we’re naughty or we’re good.’
Suddenly, that sweet bearded old man with a whiskeyed complexion looks not a little like the Dark Lord, Sauron, with his all-knowing eye of fire and ire.
And it’s that, not all the other stuff, that pisses me off about Santa.
Because what could be more contrary to the Christmas Gospel than the idea of God constantly watching our every move to see if we’re good or not? To see if we’re worth rewarding with a gift or if he should instead stick us with a ‘you shouldadunbetter lump of coal.’
Not to get too preachy but the Gospel is: ‘God died for us while we were yet sinners.’
The Christmas Gospel, therefore, is: ‘While we were yet sinners, God took flesh and gave us the gift of himself.’
And, dammit, I want my son to know that God loves him regardless if he’s naughty or nice.
And so do I.
And that fat man with the little helpers and hoes is screwing that message up.
Here’s another thing: The real Saint Nick took it on the chin and was exiled by the Roman Emperor Diocletian for the Gospel. The real Saint Nick was at the Council of Nicea where he landed one- literally- on the chin of Arius (later to be named a heretic) for Arius’ assertion that the person we meet in Jesus Christ is anything less than the fullness of the Godhead revealed perfectly.
So I’d be willing to bet a great big plate of cookies that, somewhere up in Heaven, all this naughty or nice nonsense pisses the real St Nick off too.