“Are you ready for Santa? Surely you’ve been good!”

When you have decided as a family not to participate in the Santa Claus phenomena, the ubiquity of the jolly old fat man and the gravitational pull he exerts on all yuletide conversations — public and private — becomes even more noticeable. (See this article for more).

Don’t worry: our four children have never believed there was a Santa Claus. They still receive presents at Christmas. They are not freaks.

I was picking up a few last minute items at the local market prepping for our church Christmas party. The cashier asked “Are you ready for Santa?” Note, at this point, I have none of the aforementioned Santa-challenged children with me: a grown woman was asking me, a grown man, about Santa — even adults seemingly cannot converse about the season of Christ’s advent without resort to a commercialized mythical elf. I muttered a few unintelligible syllables while fumbling for some cash when she encouraged me: “Surely you’ve been good?”

It was simply too much. I responded “No, I have not been good. Nor have you been good. Nor have any of the children who believes in Santa Claus been good. Which is precisely the problem. None of us are good, and if we were to truly rely upon that measure to ensure that a benign being with supernatural power to give gifts to men is nice to us, then we would all be sorely disappointed. Instead, I trust that God does not count our badness against us, but has counted it against Jesus Christ, and through him those who repent and believe enjoy all the glories of heaven in the eternal state.”

I didn’t really say that. I wish I had. Or something similar. I wish everyone would realize that Santa’s standards are impossible to attain, whether he is jolly or not.

When I did not play along with her line of yuletide cross-examination, the cashier tried to salvage some assurance that I — a fellow traveller on this celestial ball and dependent to the mercies of Santa — had some semblance of Christmas spirit: “Have you decorated your tree?”

As if proof of our Christmas spirit is perpetuating the Santa Claus myth, or that of Rudolph or spying elves, or drinking egg nog or decorating trees…how dreadfully weak is the testimony of Christians to the true spirit of Christmas.

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