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"For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not of ourselves."

Santa or The Saviour?

Claus or Christ?

Jesus versus Santa
Compare and Contrast

by Timothy Cross

At this time of the year, we cannot escape from encountering a jolly, rosy-cheeked, white-bearded gentleman in a red and white suit. He seems to be everywhere - on cards, in shops, in songs and in films. His name is Santa Claus - a.k.a. Father Christmas. As a young boy, like many, I was very taken up with old Santa, and pushed any doubts and puzzles about him to the back of my mind. It then came as something of a shock to find out - when I was about nine years old - that Santa was not actually real, and the presents he apparently brought were from another source: mum and dad. I can remember the feeling of disappointment and of ‘being had’ to this day.

For the Christian, it is the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the centre and focal point of Christmas, not Santa. And a comparison of the two is very revealing.

Reality not Mythology

First of all, truth be told, Santa, and his supposed ability to fly through the sky on a sleigh - not to mention his ability to navigate all the blocked up chimneys in town - is not actually real. He is make-believe. We are told that his red and white suit is a relatively recent invention - it was used first as an advertising ploy for a well-known soft drink.

The Lord Jesus Christ, however, is an historical, not a mythological figure. He really existed and He really exists. 2 Peter 1:16 reads, For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye witnesses of His majesty. All of the Gospel accounts have a ‘ring of truth’ about them. Luke’s Gospel, for instance, sets the ministry of Jesus within the Roman Empire of the first century. Specifically, In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee … Earlier, Luke had set the birth of Jesus as coinciding with the time when a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria (Luke 2:1,2).

Yes. Historical reality characterizes the Lord Jesus Christ. He is no invention. He is an historical figure Who has divided history into BC and AD. We are now living in the twenty-first century AD – twenty-one centuries after the birth of Christ at Bethlehem.

Temporary Happiness and Lasting Joy

Whilst Santa brings a degree of jollity and temporary cheer to the cold winter days, he brings no lasting joy. He is a bit irrelevant in the weeks after Christmas, and certainly in July. What a contrast with the Saviour and the blessing He brings!

Fading is the worldling’s pleasure
All his boasted pomp and show
Solid joys and lasting treasure
None but Zion’s children know.

 The original Christmas message concerns good news of a great joy … for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour Who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10,11). In John 15:11 Jesus says ‘These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full’. Christians alone know fullness of joy - a joy in the Lord, the joy of eternal salvation, the joy of being reconciled for ever to God our Maker through the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death.

Merited or Unmerited Favour?

Santa comes - we are told - to reward the good. Here we have a clash with the Bible, for the Bible teaches that if Santa came only to reward the good, he would not be able to come at all. Jesus said ‘No one is good but God alone’ (Mark 10:18). Romans 3:12 states no one does good, not even one, and Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.
In complete contrast to Santa, Jesus said ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners’ (Mark 2:17).

The Christian Gospel in a nutshell is that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The blessing of salvation comes to those who confess that, by rights, they deserve punishment not a reward. The blessing of salvation comes to those who, confessing their sin and guilt, cast themselves on Christ for mercy, for He alone is the Saviour of sinners:

Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to the cross I cling
Naked come to Thee for dress
Helpless look to Thee for grace
Foul I to the fountain fly
Wash me Saviour or I die.

A Finished or Unfinished Work?

Santa - legend has it - comes every year on the night of December 24/morning of December 25. His work is thus never finished. We can expect him next year as well as this. This contrasts drastically with the work of Christ. Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and on Calvary’s cross He actually procured the eternal salvation of sinners, once and for all, fully and forever: He has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:26). When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:12). It is the ‘finished work of Christ’ which distinguishes the Christian Faith and brings to the believing heart much assurance, re-assurance and true hope.

Agreeable Presents or the Greatest Gift?

Finally, we note that Santa comes with gifts. Experience recalls that these are often very nice gifts, enjoyable and useful for a season. But at the heart of Christmas lies a Gift to dwarf all gifts - a priceless Gift beyond compare. God gave His Own Son to be our Saviour. Our greatest need is for a Saviour, and in Christ alone we find the Saviour for our greatest need. Giving certainly lies at the centre of Christmas, but the giving in question is a divine, not a human one: God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15).

There are then some contrasts between the Saviour and Santa, Christ and Claus. I won’t enter into the controversial area of arguments for and against believing in Father Christmas, and whether he is harmful to children’s spiritual growth or not. Sincere Christians are in disagreement here. I will state, however, that no one or nothing is to come between a Christian and his/her Saviour. Jesus is the reason for the season. He is the centre-piece of Christmas. He is the centre-piece of the Christian’s life and joy - and He will be the focus and joy of the Christian throughout life, in death and for all eternity. Nothing can take the place of the Lord Jesus Christ - and knowing Him and His salvation, we will not want anyone or anything to usurp His place.

Fix your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.


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Last Update: 2013-08-12 16:41