I was struck by this photo when I saw it online. It is a reminder at this time of year there is more to Christmas than a cultural festival featuring an old man in a red suit.
The cross isn’t usually seen as a Christmas symbol. Yet it is the ultimate Christmas symbol. The birth of the baby Jesus took place only so that he could be crucified 33 years later. Without the cross, there would be no reason to have the manger. That’s why the New Testament is more than just the Christmas story.
Santa rules at this time of year it seems, as a commercial tool. It is all about being good and getting presents. Retailers depend on Christmas to break even or make a profit each year.
Presents are nice, though at my age there’s nothing that I really need. And not even much that I want. I enjoy giving though. I guess God is like that too.
That delight in gift giving stems from God’s gift to us on that first Christmas the baby Jesus Christ. Our ideas about Santa just move that context into a more secular realm, more palatable in a post-Christian society. (Though if you study the history of Santa Claus, originally St. Nicholas you’ll find a lot of church history that somehow also gets lost at this time of year.
On this fourth Sunday of Advent, this photo stands as a reminder that Jesus is the reason for the season. The true gift is the cross and empty tomb, a gift of love still being given after 2,000 years.