Editor’s note: This column first ran on Dec. 8, 2017.
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” is a now famous quote that came from an 1897 New York Sun newspaper response to a letter from 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon inquiring about the existence of Santa Claus.
Age 8 does seem to be the general age for us to begin to doubt such stories told us by our parents, friends and relatives about the existence of such things as the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Santa and so on. It’s the natural progression or perhaps the maturing we all go through as we examine the reality of the world around us against those stories.
We are much too sophisticated to believe these things as we get older, and quite frankly, we are too cool to fall for them any longer.
I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny any longer, nor do I have any confidence in the existence of a man at the North Pole who makes toys all year and then flies magically around the world Christmas Eve delivering them to boys and girls (depending on your good/bad status). FedEx has nothing on Santa.
Even though I don’t believe anymore, I’ve noticed it hasn’t stopped me from hiding eggs on Easter or receiving gifts every Christmas morning.
It would be easy to throw the real story and reason for Christmas in this same basket of made-up stories and characters. I have a relative who does just that. He loves me no doubt but has no desire to believe, as he says, “in an invisible man in the sky with a big white beard.”
OK, I get it. Faith is challenging; after all, how does a woman conceive without a man (virgin birth), and it’s a stretch to believe angels would appear in the sky to a bunch of shepherds instructing them to go to a stable in Bethlehem. I have not even brought up the three men from the Far East who followed a star and a prophecy to the same town looking for the same baby.
Christmas is a time that I’m reminded that God is God because he does not do his thing in ways that make sense for us at times, but that is what makes him God.
It brings to mind a passage in the New Testament that says “but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).
If God chose to operate in a way that I could fully understand at all times, then he would not be much of a God. I mean, if I could understand the mind and work of God, then that would make me God, wouldn’t it? Trust me, I wouldn’t make much of a god.
God has chosen to give us plenty of evidence (overwhelming actually) that he does exist, is active and loves us. Nature and its complexity screams at us that there is a creator.
The apostle Paul said it this way: “For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20-21).
Even the Bible, written by man yet inspired by God himself, gives great compelling historicity to the claims of Jesus, his birth, life, death and resurrection from the dead – all things that were prophesied thousands of years earlier.
Non-biblical documents provide powerful validating proof of the Christmas birth story as well as confirmation of the life and death of Jesus. And the gospel letters written by Jesus’ apostles, the earliest ones found, are closer to his lifetime in writing than any surviving written materials of Shakespeare – and we believe in him, don’t we?
In those gospel writings we are told that more than 500 people saw and interacted with Jesus after his death and resurrection over a period of 40 days. God is not wanting us to blindly believe; he has given us great evidence.
So, while we may have fun with the Santa character and story, the Tooth Fairy and his fuzzy compatriot Mr. Easter Bunny, we cannot with integrity throw Jesus into that same bucket of lore. God chose to supernaturally intervene at the right moment in history and send his Son as a gift, to save us.
Christmas is not a time for us to be cool, but a time to stop and reflect on the reality of Jesus. Yes, Virginia, there is a Jesus.
The Rev. John Myers is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Salida.