Someone only has to say: “Ho, Ho, Ho,” and you know instantly who they are imitating. Santa Claus, Old St. Nick, Kris Kringle, Sinter Klaas are all names we give to the omnipresent, legendary, white-bearded bringer of Christmas gifts. But what if Jesus and Santa Claus could have a conversation? What would Jesus say to our legendary holiday gift-giver, Santa Claus?
A Little Santa History
The origins and folklore of a gift giver take us back over 2,000 years. However, in 270 CE the legend was officially born in the personhood of St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra (modern day Turkey), who spent his life helping the poor and under-priviledged. He loved children and often went out at night disquised in a hooded cloak to leave clothing, food, and money.
In 800 CE the Vikings believed their main god Odin, came to earth in a hooded cloak and gave food and clothing to the poor. He had a long white beard. In 825 CE the first biography of St. Nicholas appeared, listing all of his miracles. In 987, Nicholas became the patron saint of Russia and in 1300 his white beard and hair became the accepted version of his persona. Nicholas flew through the air on an eight legged white horse called Sleipnir. (Taken from Norse literature which depicts Odin, the Norse god, riding an eight-legged horse by the same name)
In 1626 a fleet of ships, led by Goodwoof left Holland for the New World. They purchased some land from the Iroquois for $24 and named the village New Amsterdam (now New York) and erected a statue of St. Nicholas in the town square.
In 1810 the New York Historical Society held the first city-wide St. Nicholas celebration and marked the occasion by revealing the first portrait of St. Nicholas in America.
In the 1860’s Abraham Lincoln asked Thomas Nast to draw Santas and Nast became known as THE Santa Claus artist in America. Nast added details such as Santa’s workshop in the North Pole and Santa’s list of ‘who’s good and who’s bad.
In the 1870’s Santa began to appear in department stores across America.
In 1897 Francis Church, Editor of the New York Sun, wrote an editorial in response to a letter from 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon. She had written the paper asking whether there really was a Santa Claus. His answer to her was: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter.
In 1931 Handdon Sundblom, an illustrator for Coca Cola, drew a human-sized version of old Saint Nick for Coke commercials. That Santa popularized the adult sized Santa. Before his rendering, Santa was elf-sized.
What Is Santa Really About?
Except for our mention of the original St. Nicholas, the rest of our descriptions of Santa Claus have been generated by the media. Christmas has become big business. Retailers have not been selling the ‘giving spirit’ — they’ve been selling the ‘buying spirit’ – for centuries.
In 2012 Americans immersed themselves in media for at least 10 hours a day. And almost all of those hours were spent doing three things: using smart phones, watching TV, and using the Internet. Americans seem to be spending less time in quiet contemplation. Instead, we wear high tech earphones, attach smart phones to our belts, shoot pictures on our phones, text and tweet, and umbilical ourselves to iPads and laptops. And during the Holidays we use these devices to find the best deals so we can spend from 45-55 billion dollars on material stuff.
We’ve lost sight of what the real St. Nicholas gave us: the gift of giving. In his classic Unity book, Spiritual Economics, Eric Butterworth said:
“In our spiritual quests we are seeking oneness with Divine flow. (We) can never really achieve this level of consciousness until giving becomes the main thrust of our lives. And when (we) discover the wonder of giving, we become unblushingly, incurable givers.”
That’s what the real St. Nicholas was all about! Unselfish, spirit-filled giving.
Charles Fillmore, Unity’s co- founder, invites us to, “Let go of our all-consuming thoughts of gain. Instead,” he says, “Think about generosity and give generously. The adage,” he continues, “That ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’ will prove itself as an irrefutable law – one that will bless (us) with an influx of ideas, life, health, and prosperity.”
One of the privileges of life, you see, is not mindless acquisition, but unfoldment. And if we trust the unfolding, good will come to us. We believe Charles Fillmore and Eric Butterworth would be concerned about what some modern day prosperity teachers are preaching.
Many prosperity teachers shout, “Just hold the right thought and you can get (attract, magnetize) anything you want. The theme is get, get, get! True prosperity is holding the ‘right’ thoughts so we can fill our consciousness with ‘right’ thoughts. See the difference?
Here is a great truth. You may want to fasten your seatbelt: Whenever we experience lack of any kind, whether it’s a need for employment, health, money, guidance, rest, etc., SOMETHING IS BLOCKING THE FLOW. We instinctively say “something’s got to give!” And that insight comes from something deep within us that says, “You’re absolutely right! – Something’s got to give and that something is you!”
“Give, and it shall be given unto you,” says the Christ as Jesus in Luke 6:38.
“Giving, without concern about return,” said the real St. Nicholas, “is the truest spiritual walk.”
What Would Jesus Say to St. Nicholas?
Have you ever written, emailed, or texted Santa? One of our favorite scenes in Christmas moviedom is the scene from Miracle on 34th Street, which takes place in the courtroom, when the Postal Service carts in thousands of letters addressed to Santa Claus, and dumps them on the judge’s desk. It demonstrates the power of belief in an icon!
But what if Jesus were to write a letter to Santa? (As far as we know Jesus never wrote anything down 2,000 years ago, except a quick note in the sand). But if he did write (or send an email), we think Jesus would have at least three things to say to St. Nick’s highly commercialized 21st Century, decked out in red Ho, Ho, Ho counterpart Santa Claus. His note to Santa he might say something like this:
“I’d like to offer you the gift of an important piece of advice: Just look at yourself! Please ~ remember who you really are! You know, Santa, you and I are kindred spirits … we have a lot in common. We both are divine at our core. We both stand for unconditional giving. My concern is that you have lost focus. Just take a look at what you’ve allowed yourself to become!
You are being used by retailers to encourage people to spend billions of dollars on material things. And to make sure people do that they’ve been told, you are keeping a list and checking it twice to see who’s been nauthy or nice!
I am sure that was never your intention, but millions of people have been duped into believing that spending and giving are synonomus! And to make matters worse, people are spending under the guise of giving! The focus is on material things and not on spiritual growth. So, it’s important for you to keep your focus, and continue to do what is yours to do ~ to spread the spirit of joy, love, and unconditional giving to the world.
I invite you to help people give in this way:
1. Unconditionally give of their Time
2. Unconditionally give of their Talents
3. Unconditionally give of their Treasures
Santa, you can help people understand this message, if you remember who you really are!
And I must say, old boy, you’ve got to cut down on all of those cookies and milk treats so you can set a good example for the children!”
The Metaphysics of Santa Claus: Taking Action
So, in this fanciful exchange, we believe it’s not too much of a stretch to say that the Christ as Jesus is talking to the Santa in each of us ~ that part of us that understands the spirit of unconditional giving. Let’s see how we can take His advice to heart this holiday season, and make reasonable forms of giving our focus!
Unconditionally giving our time: Time is such a precious commodity. We can get so caught up now with gadgets, bling, and things that we’ve become retailers’ pawns, and these retailers will not hesitate to trample anyone or anything in our way to the check out counter! We feel more pressured and rushed than ever. We’ve become products of frenzied buying instead of sane giving! What if we gave of our time instead of buying a gift? How many times has a loved one said to you, “I don’t need a gift. Your presence is all the presents I need!” Let’s believe that ~ and look for ways to give the gift of our time this season.
Unconditionally giving our talents: What are your unique talents, and how could you use them to bring joy and love to others? Consider this: What do dolphins, pool plastic, Guiness Book of World Records, and a herdsman from Inner Mongolia have to do with the giving of our talents? They all come together in a news story we saw:
The herdsman’s name is Bao Xishun. At 7-foot-9, Bao was confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s tallest living man. (His arms are 41.7 inches long)!
What made him a generous giver? It seems some dolphins had gotten seriously ill after nibbling on plastic from the edge of their pool at an aquarium. Surgical instruments could not extract the material because of the shape of a dolphin’s stomach which made it difficult to push instruments very far without hurting the animals). So, vets decided to seek the help of Bao Xishun.
He was able to reach his arm into the stomachs of the sick dolphins and remove the dangerous material! His unusually long arms became the saving instruments for the dolphins!
Unconditionally giving our treasures: The important thing is not how much money we have ~ it is the generosity of our giving spirit. We had lunch with a colleague at Golden Corral in Durham last week. Our waitress was wonderful. She had great energy, beautiful spirit, and was very talented at her job. She made us feel so welcome as she served us with such joy. We were led to give her an unusually large tip, in recognition of the way she served us! When she saw her tip, she thanked us profusely, and then shared, with excitement, that she was using all her tips this week to buy things for children whose names were on the Angel Tree at the restaurant. She opened her order book and there were four cut-out angels in her book. She said, “Now I can get a few more angels!”
We invite you to take on the spirit of Santa, and consider the unconditional giving of your time, talents, and treasures as the way you go about the business of living – not just during the Holidays, but everyday of the year.