I believe in Santa. I haven’t wanted to admit it (even to myself). I was in “Santa denial” but have finally come to terms with what I actually believe and not just what I claim. Santa is a person whose purpose is to give you what you want. You make your list of gifts that you hope for and expect to get.   Once the list is made, you try to be good because receiving what you want is based on performance.  If you are on the good list, you should get the pony or the new bicycle. If you are on the naughty list, expect a lump of coal.  Once your behavior is in check, you wait with eager expectation to get what you want because, after all, no one is really naughty. And then the fateful day comes. Which of us as children hasn’t been devastated by not having our list fulfilled? When you don’t get what you want, you become distraught and whiny. Last Christmas season I read about the “disappointed gift face.” How many of you as children have had the “disappointed gift face.” Then the sad reality hits you one day that Santa doesn’t really exist (often because he too often didn’t meet your demands) and you muddle on in life disillusioned.

As I said, I realized I still believe in Santa. Seldom does he go by the name Santa Claus or Father Christmas. He doesn’t wear a red velvet outfit and have a long white beard. He doesn’t ride a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. But he nevertheless is the focus of many people’s attention and, I dare say, many Christian’s hopes.   We believe in a person whose purpose and reason for existence is to give us what we want.  We still make our lists of demands and present them to him to answer. Actually, let me use the word “needs” rather than “demands” because it sounds more spiritual. We believe that we receive what we ask for based on our performance.  And if we don’t get what we want, we get mad at him and become distraught and whiny. We can live with the “disappointed gift face” and don’t even see it when we look in the mirror. Then the sad reality hits you one day that he really doesn’t care about you because he hasn’t met your expectations and you muddle on in life disillusioned because he did not answer you and give you what you wanted.

In Christian circles, we spiritualize it and call him god. But that “god” is not with a capital “G” referring to the God of all creation and the Lord of all.  The god with a small “g” referring to any number of make believe deities that we create in our minds. Not a whole lot different than Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. It is a replacement god that we have created as the Israelites did in the book of Exodus with the golden calf. How easily and quickly we do that.  This is where I find myself slipping back into the “Santa syndrome.”  This is the fodder of the contemporary “prosperity gospel.”  The sad truth is that when we seek after this fictitious god, we miss out on the real God.

To remedy this, we have to break through this low image of God and use the Bible to raise our view of God above our own meager image. We need to believe in a Person whose purpose is not so much about us and filling our list, but making Himself known and wanting to be loved and worshipped.  A God who doesn’t want your prayer time to be just about what you want, but about being with Him and loving Him even if He doesn’t put that present under your tree. We need to believe in the God of the Bible that gives us good gifts often by His mercy (when we really do deserve the lump of coal) or grace (when we get that bicycle that we never could have bought ourselves).  A God that is worthy of love and worship even if He doesn’t answer us.

The problem with this meager god is that we live our lives waiting for this god to fulfill our list. Our hope is in that present under the tree rather than in the Giver Himself.  But something happens as we get older. We find that we are less enamored with the trucks and bicycles and the dolls.   Those types of toys become less and less important to us because we realize there’s something more important. Our orientation moves from self and our own empty desires to Him. We begin to treasure the relationship with the giver of the gift rather than what he gives us. We begin to find our joy and contentment centered on Him even if we don’t get our list filled. And into our lives shines the bright star of those who have long ago given up lists and have sought Him alone. Stars like three men facing death and thought nothing of their own lives.  They declared, “”O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18) They treasured something more.   So my question to you is, are you still making lists for Santa?