As time goes by, personal perceptions change, probably because societal perspectives change. Perhaps, it is the societal perspectives that change because of peoples’ personal perceptions — kind of a “chicken or the egg” thing or kind of the need to conform.
For example, take good ol’ saint Nick. It goes something like this: The history says Nicholas was a nice elderly person, an influential person, either from the local leadership, or the local church, or maybe both, and here I will defer to the more detailed history on this website: https://www.biography.com/religious-figure/saint-nicholas
Well that history changed — evolved if you will — even from the outset. Anyways, this nice Christian elderly man shared his comfortable life by his charitable provision for those who had less-than-comfortable lives. Someone later endeared him as a “Saint,” and even later he further morphosed further: He became “Father Christmas.” A very favorable title, wouldn’t you say? However, in this adoration I don’t blame Nicholas for self-aggrandizement. Rather, people like to enhance those who they see as heroes. Everybody needs heroes: “Heroes exemplify cherished values, display qualities we admire, show us how to overcome challenges — and call us to stand up for others. They help build a better world for us all. Talk to your children about heroic qualities (empathy, courage, compassion) and the people who are displaying those qualities right now. Aug 18, 2020” See, https://www.doinggoodtogether.org/dgt-newsletter/why-heroes-matter
In my mind, heroes really need no enhancement; they don’t need idolization. They needn’t be elevated to superhero status.
Over the decades, Nickolas’ fame increased. People continued to add all kinds of attributes, and he became “Saint Nick.” Then, shedding the skin of the religious nature, he became a “Jolly old Elf.” Continuing onward and downward, he further became a great worldwide business organization with many, many junior elf associates — well, at first, they were just family elves, then demoted to “employees” in the family business, but then, they were demoted to “associates” (a double entendre if ever I heard one!). So they became merely a mechanism in the for-profit corporate entity. Nobody seems to have noticed or noticed he has become quite the “fat cat” now? But I digress…
Today, we know Nickolas only as Santa Claus. And who wouldn’t like this guy?!? He magically showers everybody with gifts! …But hold on a sec! There’s a catch: he knows when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. (Wow. If this doesn’t make your children paranoid!) And how about this? He also knows if you’ve been bad or good. Before you get the gifts, Santa demands everyone “be good for goodness sake.” Quid pro quo. The Final Judgment!
Is this moral code written down someplace? Oh yeah, maybe in “The Night Before Christmas”? Aren’t those demands simply drawn from the vagaries relative to Society’s changing norms, perspectives, and perceptions? Fables piled onto fables. Nevertheless, Nickolas’ evolution from an historical person to a modern day fable is now completed.
Of course, what bothers me most about this whole Santa Claus business are two things: First, it’s a business. It is a promotional sales pitch, “corporate think,” consumerism, materialism — the promised hope being that accumulating things is the whole purpose of life and will thoroughly satisfy the soul. Second, and more important, did anyone notice that Santa Claus, with all his additional attributes, has replaced God? Yes, God of the Bible. God, who also reportedly sees you. But unlike Santa, the biblical all-seeing God is not spying on you. Instead, He is a loving Father who watches over us, to help us, to guide us, and to protect us.
Yes. It is true. Santa seems to have replaced Jesus. Christmas is no longer exclusively about celebrating the birth of the Savior, a hero born in a little town called Bethlehem. No more the scene of a baby lain in a feeding trough in an animal shelter. It’s about sitting on Santa’s lap, snuggling up to his big red fur coat and surrounded by bright and sparkly things. Santa has overshadowed, and in many ways replaced, the loving God Almighty who always wants the best for us, who also actually has real gifts for us, but those gifts are so much better: the free and unmerited favor of forgiveness and redemption, no condemnation. God wants to enhance our lives with these gifts “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17, NIV) This is what our purpose is. This is what will thoroughly bring satisfaction to our lives. No lumps of coal.
Nicholas was a real person. Santa is not. Jesus is a real person, not a fable. His story does not change, even though people and societies, as in all hero worship, like to enhance and change His story to their more comfortable perceptions. The Bible is the written record of Jesus’ history from Creation to the Resurrection. Great lengths have been taken to preserve the story as it has been written, and I might add a bare bones, warts and all, meat and potato, down-to-earth story. God of Biblical fame really does exist. He does not change or evolve to accommodate social or personal perspectives. He loves us with unconditional love. He wants us to respond to Him but does not want people to respond to Him in some paranoid way: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” and “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:17 & 16, NIV)
All the celebrations with friends and family are good any time of the year. All the decorations, all the food… Yes, celebration is a great thing. Getting together with family and friends for no particular reason, even more so. However, at Christmas time shouldn’t we especially remember what we are supposed to be celebrating? Celebrate the birth of the true gift God has given to all the world… Jesus.
Jesus says “…whoever comes to me I will certainly not turn away.” (John 6:37, CEV)