This time of year, go into any mall in North America, and this is what you might come across: familiar holiday music, tinkling bells, a potpourri of spices that bring back childhood memories, cheerful wintery decorations, and a line of children and parents waiting to see a jolly bearded man dressed in red. The children wait for their turn to sit in his lap and make their wishes – he is, of course, Santa Claus.

In western culture, Santa’s presence in movies, TV, and advertising seems inescapable. We treat this jolly symbol as the central figure of our secular celebration, and commercialized Christmas is so pervasive that even Christians are often swept up by the merriment. And yet, we are also called to act and think differently from the world.

The real Saint Nicholas was a man of God (a bishop of the third and fourth century) who was known for his good deeds and the gifts he gave to children. Likewise, while the date is debatable, the birth of Christ was a momentous cause for celebration and a very real part of our faith. However, due to centuries of pagan influence, commercialism, and marketing, the Christmas we celebrate today includes as much secular symbolism as it does sacred. As believers, how ought we respond to this?

Christmas celebration should always be centered around Christ. Anchor your traditions in lifting up Jesus, and the right traditions will last. We can’t let ourselves be attached to a worldly myth like a magical man bringing gifts down the chimney, but we can honor the selfless love of Christ in the way we give to loved ones and strangers.

One day, every child realizes that Santa Claus is not really coming to town, whether you tell them or not. But they can always be filled with joy at the gathering of family, the joy of the Lord, and the joy of gift giving.

The truth is, Christmas really is about Someone who came to our town. In fact, this Man came to His own people, and they didn’t receive Him (John 1:11). He was born in a humble manger yet had authority in all heaven and earth (Luke 2:7 & Matthew 28:18). He humbled Himself to the form of a slave (Philippians 2:6-11), and He wept like any of us (Hebrews 12:2 & John 11:35). He is the Word made flesh that dwelt among us, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God the Father (John 1:14 & 3:16). Santa may be seated at the center of the mall, but Jesus will be enthroned forever in our hearts and in the heavens! We here at ISOW pray that you have a blessed Christmas season as we remember the One who came to town.

Merry Christmas!

– Matthew Foley, Staff Writer and Instructor

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