"Santa Claus is Coming... ?"

Posted on 12/16/2012 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

AUDIO: dialup - broadband - podcast

TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)

*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***


Public Prayer Requests:

*** there are no public prayer requests this week ***


JOY TO THE WORLD

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.


ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o'er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.

Refrain

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?

Refrain

Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

Refrain

See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.

Refrain


O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God's holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.


O COME O COME EMMANUEL

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.


*** listen to the audio for the introduction ***

Well, in one week and two days, we'll be celebrating Christmas. And while I realize there might be someone here or listening who believes Christians shouldn't celebrate Christmas, my wife and I celebrate it in good conscience; and while more and more people celebrate a day of gifts, food, perhaps drinking too much, and lying to their kids about Santa and rein deer, we celebrate the birth of the Savior, and the gifts we give are a rememberance of the spirit of giving that was present there that day -- giving gifts to the newly-born Messiah, and receiving God's infant gift to all mankind.

Today, I hid the title of my message because I didn't want to distract anyone by it during our time of worship in song. And yes, it's right in line with the cheesy and/or goofy titles I frequently come up with. But if you'll just hang in there with me for the next few minutes, hopefully something will be said that you'll find helps you in some way.

And the title of today's message is, "Santa Claus is Coming."


Recently, I saw a survey with the question, "Should parents tell their children the truth about Santa Claus?" I thought it was an easy answer, and I clicked "Yes." Then the results of the poll came up, with a breakdown of how different groups of people answered.

I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was when I saw that only 43% of professing Christians thought they should tell their children the truth.

And I was trying to envision what they taught their children about Christmas.

"Susy and Jonny, let mommy and daddy tell you about Christmas. A long time ago, God was born as a baby. He came to help us get to heaven. He was born in a stable, and they laid Him in a manger. The wise men came and gave Him gifts."

"Daddy, you mean like Santa Claus?"

"Yes Susy, just like Santa."

"But daddy..."

"Yes Jonny?"

"Someone at school told me Santa's not real."

"Of course he's real, Jonny! Who do you think eats those cookies we leave out every Christmas Eve?"

"Please don't be mad, daddy... It was me. I at the cookies. I love cookies! And that boy at school told me Jesus isn't real either. He's just like Santa Claus."


No, today's message isn't about whether you should tell your kids Santa's real. I realize that many of us here don't even have kids. Instead, I'd like for us to take a look at the bigger picture.

You probably already know the story of Saint Nicholas.

Supposedly, Nicholas was born to a wealthy family in the 300's A.D., and both his parents died when he was a teen. To make a long, and historically unsustantiated, story short, he went around helping people. According to one account, he was imprisoned during Christian persecution, but was later released when Constantine became emperor.

As a bishop, it is said that Nicholas strongly refuted Arianism, which denies the full deity of Christ.

Nicholas is said to have been represented in more medieval art than any other saint besides Mary.

In the last paragraph of a story published on the Christianity Today website, they say this:

"Somewhere along the line, probably tied to the gold-giving story (in which Nicholas was said to give gold to three daughters to keep them from going into slavery), people began giving presents in his name on his feast day (which is December 6th). When the Reformation came along, his following disappeared in all the Protestant countries except Holland, where his legend continued as Sinterklass. Martin Luter, for example, replaced this bearer of gifts with the Christ Child, or, in German, Christkindl. Over the years, that became repronounced Kriss Kringle, and ironically is now considered another name for Santa Claus."

Now I don't know about you, but I find that interesting. This probably great man, Nicholas, was put on a pedistal and turned into almost as much of an idol as Mary is to many people.

During the reformation, in which unbiblical doctrine was openly rejected, this popular figure was ousted by celebration of the new-born Messiah. But it didn't take long until the title "Christ Child" was turned around and bestowed upon a idol.

And that's what we sinful humans do. We replace God. We replace the Messiah. When we're not replacing Him with a counterfeit made in a slightly different image, and when we're not crowding Him out with our busy lives and the pursuit of entertainment and pleasure, we're replacing Him with fables, or at least letting them compete with the attention that only He deserves.

Of course I realize that no adult here, besides Albert, still believes in Santa Claus (just kidding, buddy), and while most sane adults know the Santa Claus of today is just a myth, he's still presented, even to adult audiences, as someone posessing divinely magical characteristics, and without whom Christmas would have no meaning.

Maybe you've seen atheists who are trying to ban Santa Claus from the public square, but I haven't. No law suits (at least not outside of the movies), no protests, no petitions. Santa is an obvious myth, but in the comments under that survey I told you about, several self-proclaimed atheists were strongly opposed to NOT telling children that Santa is real.

So much for the idea that they object to lying to people and telling them that myths are true.

Almost everyone loves Santa. True, he supposedly wants you to "be good" in order to get in his graces, but it a goodness that is open to interpretation. And as Proverbs 21:2 says, "Every man's way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts."

So OF COURSE you've been good this year. Even if you've done things you know weren't good or weren't nice, overall, you're a pretty good person. Right?

And it's really easy for the general public to accept a god figure like THAT -- someone who lets you define for yourself what is good and bad, and who rewards your own self-perceived goodness by giving you stuff. Even if you know he's not real.


Okay, let me assure you once again that the purpose of today's message is not to expose Santa Claus as evil. Please try to bear with me just a little bit longer.

While I was growing up, my mother never lied to my sister or me about Santa. We knew he was a myth. According to many of the comments I read on that survey I told you about, I SHOULD have a very limited or non-existent imagination, because I wasn't lied to about Santa.

Instead, it turns out that I was never faced with the feeling that, in order to be a mature adult who lives in the real world, I have to reject imagination because, after all, imaginations are lies. So I kept my imagination, but still live in the real world. (No comments from anyone, please, or my relatives will abduct you during their next trip to earth.)

Seriously though; a world filled with people who reject God, either by accepting counterfeits and distractions, or by outright claiming He does not exist; a world like that will automatically become more and more confused.

You probably heard about the shooting this past week in the elementary school, in which twenty children and six teachers were killed.

And people were rightfully disturbed, and unnecesarily shocked. It's like a car owner who keeps taking their automobile to a repair shop where they just hammer away at the engine, and then has no idea why his car keeps breaking down.

While there are a relatively small number of atheists trying to remove every reminder of God from the world, the majority of us have been complicit in their actions because we have done nothing to stop what they're doing.

Should we be surprised? Most people send their children to public schools, or, as I call them, atheistic endoctrination camps, where they are taught that they are animals, they are mistakes, and there are no eternal consequences for their actions. And then they are shocked when a 20-year-old walks into a school with a gun, kills some teachers and almost two dozen little kids, then kills himself.

Shock and amazement! Why in the world would someone who thinks he's an accident, he's an animal, there is no meaning to life, and there is no God to face after death; why in the world would someone like that choose to go shoot children and then kill himself?

No clue whatsoever. It just doesn't make sense, does it. It's a whole lot better than it would be, or was, when kids were taught the Ten Commandments, were taught that they have purpose, they are loved, and they are to behave like humans made in God's image instead of like animals, and were taught that they have to give an account to God after they die for what they did with their lives.

How horrible and politically incorrect!

As Romans 1:22 says, "Professing to be wise, they became fools."

Let's read that verse in context. And as we do, decide whether you recognize any group of people or any societies in today's world.

Romans 2:18-32 (NKJV)

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,
25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.
27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;
29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,
30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;
32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.


First, this says that deep down, they know. It's obvious. If you wanna talk about myths that we tell children are true, at least they eventually find out you were lying to them about Santa; but since adults seem to believe the "Goo to You" myth, that's a harder dream to wake up from.

But it's obvious, if you just step back and look. We've learned a lot about how our bodies work. They depend on highly complex, finely-tuned systems that cannot continue to function without other countless systems also running like they should. And this includes the operation of organs working in concert with other organs, with various circulatory systems, with a vast network of nerves, all connected to and completely dependent upon the brain, which is a marvel unto itself.

It is in constant communication with the organs, the billions of cells, the eyes (which are a breathtaking marvelous design), the ears (which are equally remarkable and do much more than allow us to hear), the sense of touch, which allows us numerous levels of interaction and keeps us from unknowingly and therefore repeatedly hurting and damaging ourselves... shall I go on?

And all of this irreducible complexity "accidentally" came about from a single cell (and, by the way, even a simple single cell is a marvel that, statistically, could not have come into existence by accident). That statistical improbability somehow learned how to reproduce its marvel, and then accidentally became some moving slime, which accidentally grew a mouth, connected to an accidentally-formed stomach, connected to the rest of the slime's form and to some sort of accidentally-formed system that magically gained the knowledge of how to process food and eliminate the left overs.

And then, over millions of years, by a bunch of statistically unthinkable accidents, an eye popped out, then it accidentally connected to a mistake called a brain, which magically learned how to use that accident called an eye to see and recognize the external world.

And now here we are, still living on this finely-tuned earth in this finely-tuned solar system in this finely-tuned, self-creating universe, in what we could not, in a trillion years, recreate ourselves. And yet it had no creator. If there IS a God, obviously that God is Nature.

22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man -- and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

And the result? God gave them up to their own deception. Verse 28 says, "even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind."

Just consider how atheists seem to dedicate their lives to removing God from... well, from everywhere that they might hear about him. Take Him out of the classrooms, because that increases the chances that, a few years down the road, you'll have a growing army of people helping you to take Him out of the government, out of the entertainment, and out of the public square.

"Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind."

29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,
30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;
32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

You see, deep down, they KNOW the righteous judgment of God.

But Santa Claus, on the other hand... He's cool.


Okay... So why am I picking on Santa Claus? And why am I ranting on about all this mess when we're supposed to be getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus?

Well, I'll tell you. I just wanted to make sure we have a clearer perspective this Christmas, and that we acknowledge the depths to which we have fallen.

I mean, think about it... Thanksgiving is called Thanksgiving. Easter is called Easter (even though WE call it Resurrection Day). Halloween is called Halloween. No one finds those names offensive. But Christmas is called Holiday. "Happy Holidays." Why? Because it's really hard to remove "Christ" from the word "Christmas" without just dumping the word altogether.

And it all boils down to this: The world has a problem with Jesus. Sure, they can somewhat cope with a Jesus who is a peace-loving hippy and who wouldn't let anyone go to hell. But the real deal? Baby or not, He's just too offensive.

I mean come on... Any sane, thinking person will agree that the idea that our perfectly-balanced, fine-tuned, irreducibly complex existence is an accident, while seeing the obsurdity of the idea that we were created by a far superior Being who loves us and has a plan for our lives.

And Santa Claus is coming to town.


Okay. Now that all that's over, let's try to identify the main point I'm trying to make, and then drive it home.

Where is our focus this Christmas? Where is YOUR focus? Sure, the lights and the decorations and the cards and the presents are fun and exciting. But are they your main focus?

Sure, it can be kind of fun to pretend that there's a happy fat man who gives us toys and goodies, but are we lying about him, and letting him compete with the true and living Savior whose gifts are endless and everlasting, and as we replace an attitude of graditude toward those who love us with an attitude of entitlement to stuff from some stranger because we think of ourselves as good?

You've probably heard the old, fairly worn-out saying, "Keep Christ in Christmas." But I think we can take that a step or two farther. Instead of just keeping Him from being completely removed from our time of celebration, let's keep him the center of everything we do.

Give gifts, but make it an act of God's love. Receive gifts, but give thanks, and if you have children, teach them to give thanks, both to the person who gave it to you and to God for being the true source; not because you are good, because no one is good but God; rather, because GOD is good, so good that He loves you enough to sacrifice Himself to make you righteous, and so that you can wear HIS goodness, which makes you holy.

And eat wonderful food, but remember that you need to send us leftovers.

I'm just kidding about that one. But something you COULD do is to share what you have with someone who is in need.

Romans 5:8 says this: "But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Messiah died for us." He didn't wait until we were part of His family or even His friend before He gave us the most precious gift ever given. So let's give God's love to someone we don't know, or someone who can't or won't thank us.

And let's make sure we remember who IS coming to town. The time is short. Creation's clock is running down. And Jesus is coming very soon. Let's live for Him like we mean it, and let's be shining stars during our celebration of Light.


Let's close today's service with a time of prayer, worship, and ministry. This altar is open, and you're all invited to get out of your seat right now and make your way to the front.

If you'd like someone to talk or pray with you, feel free to instant message Mariposa or me. After this time at the altar, whenever you're done here, you're invited to make your way up the stairs and into the room to your left, and we'll all meet there in a few minutes for a time of fellowship.

Come, and let's surrender our holiday celebrations to Jesus.


Lord God, thank you for sending your Spirit to be here with us today. I ask that we would all hold fast to whatever you're speaking to each one of us today, and I ask that we would take your free gift of reconciliation with you to those in need, so that those who lie in darkness will see a great light, and so that, in the midst of so many distrations this time of year, they would find You.

Help us to keep our eyes upon Jesus this Christmas season, and may the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing and acceptable in your sight.

And it's in Jesus' precious name we pray.

Amen.