The Night Santa Came To Church

20 12 2007

A church Christmas program story from my childhood that often surfaces in my family involves the infamous Santa scandal.  All was going well with the children’s Christmas pageant – most lines were remembered and you had your usual share of suddenly shy pre-schoolers and mic hogging grade school boys.  But then came the climatic finale.  The one where the Christ child was typically exulted and young and old would all feel quite warm and fuzzy about the baby who was usually played by a 2 year old. 

Perhaps at this moment I should mention that the lady who coordinated the event that year (and never again in subsequent years) always felt like the church didn’t do right by her boys, and believed that they deserved to be in the spotlight for once.  The moment had arrived.

The back doors of the sanctuary swung wide open…  and in walked…  her oldest son dressed as Santa Clause.  As the juvenile Kris Kringle ho-ho-ho’d his way down the aisle, he flung candy far and wide.  It was so quiet you could almost hear an old lady’s false teeth drop out of her mouth as she sat slack-jawed.  The children begin to titter and squeal.  The gasps and the laughs began to play side by side.  The great moment of Christ-child adulation had turned into an early crucifixion…  and Santa was hammering the nails.

st. nicholasIn recent years, I’ve found ways to incorporate Santa into church Christmas events by telling the true story of St. Nicholas’ sacrificial generosity.  While Christians have certainly let Christmas become a mostly non-Christian event, mine is the vain hope of showing how Christ’s lessons can be learned.  Last year, in morning worship no less, we mixed secular Christmas carols with favorite hymns that showed how we can find Christ imagery in songs as far reaching as “White Christmas” and even “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”.  To my relief, the folks present really appreciated this approach and found it to be at once enjoyable and edifying.

I would invite you to read my previous post, “Merry X-mas and Happy Holidays” if you’ve not done so yet to catch the full flavor of what I’m trying to say here.  The reminder is that our Father in Heaven is Lord over all things, and God-focused eyes will find ways to worship him in many varied ways.  The sacred can be found among the secular if we train our eyes towards Jesus. 

This is actually a pretty radical concept.  It changes our Christmas celebration.  Instead of the focus being gifts and ham sandwiches, it can turn to the down-trodden and infirm.  Rather than making Dec. 25 a day at home, it can become a day visiting hospitals and nursing homes.  That’s what my wife’s brush with death at this time last year taught me.  And if you truly want to find Christ in your celebration this year, look for Jesus.  You’ll find him slouched over a wheel chair or pacing in a cold waiting room while someone clings to life.  That’s where you’ll find Christmas.

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