I couldn’t believe it. About 50 years ago, my wife, Celia, and I had been walking through a shopping center in South Vancouver. As we returned to the entrance, our eyes were drawn to a variety shop displaying everything Christmassy. Though it was nearly hidden in the bewildering mishmash, I spied a nativity scene complete with Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus, the invariably out-of-time-sequence wise men, shepherds, several sheep that had followed their herders into the stable, and Santa Claus.
Yes, there was Santa, worshiping Jesus. I was already disgruntled about the annual hoopla surrounding the birth of the Savior, but Santa really did me in. This was simply outrageous. We walked back to the parking lot. Celia got in the car, but I turned and went back into the mall. Perturbed though I was, I just had to look at that scene again. For reasons I could not explain to myself, I wanted it!
The set cost $35, well beyond our budget, and I did not purchase it. Yet over the years, sometimes my thoughts have strayed back to that strange nativity scene, and for the umpteenth time I would wonder what had driven its creator to include Santa.
In mid-fall each year, notices appear on TV and in store windows reminding everyone that Christmas is a-coming, and stores launch their annual Christmas jingles to their unsuspecting customers. One November while I was at the supermarket, the reason for including Santa in that nativity scene became crystal clear to me. The creator of that scene must have had an epiphany. Fully accepting Jesus as Lord of all (Acts 10:36) and worthy of worship, the creator chose to include in the holy scene even the legendary person of Santa.
You and I know well that God’s laws enforce the stars in their courses and make the sun in its orbit obediently shine. We know that mountains, rivers, and the depths of the ocean declare him divine (Katherine Davis, “Let All Things Now Living," Lift Up Your Hearts #5). But perhaps there’s more. Could it be that at Christmastime God simply ordains that all his children, whether they believe in God or not, knowingly or unknowingly will celebrate the birth of his Son, the Christ?
Already long ago a monk divided world history into B.C. and A.D. so it would forever revolve around the birth of Christ. And today we see not only churches, but Hindu temples, gurdwaras, and many homes of agnostics, humanists, Buddhists, and atheists alike lit up in festive explosions of Christmas lights and color. Everyone tries to outdo one another in offering kindness, giving presents, preparing foods, and caring for the needy during this season. Everywhere you hear songs commemorating the birth of Jesus and, most interestingly, everybody talks about “having the Christmas spirit” even though most are not aware of what is really going on: God’s will at work!
And God just smiles, I think, waiting for people to wake up to the fact that unto them is born a Savior, God’s one and only Son, and that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Yes, the creator of that nativity scene with Santa had it right.
Although he might have included a Christmas tree.
About the Author
Frank DeVries is a past principal of Christian schools in Wyoming, Ont., Houston, B.C., and Vancouver, B.C. He and his wife, Celia, attend Fleetwood Christian Reformed Church in Surrey, B.C.