I took the hand of my toddler son (it was several decades ago now) as we made our way into the local shop on the small and remote Scottish island where earlier that year I had been installed as minister. It was Christmas week. The store was brightly decorated and a general air of excitement was abroad.
Without warning, the conversations of the customers were brought to a halt by a questioning voice from beside me. My son’s upraised index finger pointed at a large cardboard Santa Claus. “Daddy, who is that funny-looking man?” he asked.
Amazement spread across the faces of the jostling shoppers; accusing glances were directed at me. Such shame–the minister’s son did not even recognize Santa Claus! What likelihood, then, of hearing good news in his preaching at the festive season?
It is always easier to lament and critique the new paganism of secularism’s blatant idolatry than to see how easily the church — and we ourselves — twist or dilute the message of the incarnation in order to suit our own tastes. But, sadly, we have various ways of turning the Savior into a kind of Santa Claus.
For the Christian, this is easy to let happen. I listen to a local station here that has started playing Christmas songs 24-hours a day. I am saddened by how many of those songs are about Santa or the weather or the jingling of bells while riding on a sleigh. It brings out some great sentimentality, but it does not really cut to the root of why this season is so special.
I hope you will take time to read this very insightful article.