An American pastor caused a stir recently by preaching to parents and children at a shopping centre who were in a queue to see santa, telling them santa isn’t real and its just an ordinary man in a suit they were going to see. Many were quick to point out the apparent irony of his remarks on social media. Ricky Gervais commented “Now this is irony! Evangelist Preacher tells children Santa isn’t real as they queue for xmas [sic] grotto.” Many of his 4.2 million followers on Facebook also piled in with their own comments to add their noticing the apparent ‘irony’ too, yet the reality is there is no irony. There is simply a cold (especially if its been snowing), hard truth that God is real, Jesus is alive and we all need to accept Him as Lord and saviour because if we don’t then we will be condemned to hell for the sins we have all committed. Its nice to have friends and family round at Christmas. Its nice to eat lots of tasty food and share presents, but if you take Jesus out of Christmas what you are left with is a pretty empty pagan commercial event that just leaves a huge credit card bill in January.
Now, I do not want to focus on the details of what the pastor concerned said (I’m not entirely convinced it is the most effective way to get the message across, but that’s a separate issue), but you can watch the footage of his preaching below if you want.
What I do want to pick up on is the idea that this pastor saying santa is not real is “ironic” according to the militant secular brigade. Of course, it is the world’s oldest line of abuse levelled at Christians that, ‘God is just an imaginary friend’, yet they are so quick to automatically go along with known Christmas fairy tales of santa and his flying reindeer. Those who are yet to receive Jesus are very quick to mock and they always will be – partly because they find it difficult to understand (more on that in a bit) and partly because they know in their heart they need Jesus, but deny him, so hurling abuse is a way of diverting attention from their need for salvation. If you don’t believe aggressive reactions towards Christians is what happens when people try to resist God, watch the video and see the reaction of some of the bystanders for yourself. One day they will all encounter God, hopefully it will be on earth whilst they still have a chance for redemption, but the choice is theirs.
For anyone who is not a Christian, understanding the reality of God may be quite hard to get. Most people who are Christians will tell you that they didn’t really understand God until they encountered Him personally. We live in an evidence based society – seeing really is believing. The idea that there is a God who loves us all and who sent Jesus to die for our sins is all just too much to take. Part of the reason for this is that what has become known as the ‘Christmas story’ has been diluted and populated with lots of comfortable sounding stuff. What people forget for example, is that a pregnant unmarried woman in biblical times was a huge issue. Our society has become so immune to it in its acceptance of it as a norm that such details pass most people by. The reality of the story of the birth of Jesus is a humble story involving ordinary people that had earth shaking and life changing consequences for the whole of mankind, but that is all quite deep so we’ll just make it a bit ‘nicer’ so its more ‘accessible’ and ‘inclusive’. Its far easier to tell children about this fictional character santa who brings presents if the children have been good. Its far easier to fill out time by queuing to see a man dressed up as a fictional character and rack up credit card bills rather than facing the reality that Christmas is when we remember the coming to earth our saviour – Jesus Christ.
Its easy to claim God as an imaginary friend, but everyday we see things in the natural world that can help to explain the nature and reality of God. When you look at the trees blowing in the wind, you don’t see the wind itself, you see the effects of the wind. You don’t look out the window at the trees in the garden and say “look at that wind”, you say something like “look at those trees blowing in the wind”. On a cloudy day you might not see the sun, but the effect of its light is still seen. We don’t pretend that on a cloudy day the sun somehow doesn’t exist, but then when the clouds clear in the afternoon suddenly decide it does exist on the basis we can now see it, so why do so many claim God doesn’t exist based on the idea they can’t see Him? The answer lies in the examples already given: People do not see God and accept the reality of his existence because they do not want to. We don’t see God as a physical being on earth but we see him at work all the time. When people are prayed for and healed on the streets for example, people don’t see God literally stitching their muscles back together or hammering in bone extensions, but they certainly see and feel the effects of the healing. When people are faced with death or disaster, they suddenly develop a great belief in prayer in God, yet when life is going well they want to pretend there is no God.
Whilst it is easy to mock a pastor who is simply trying to get the truth of Christmas over to a group of people (again I’m not talking here of the manner in which he spoke), its really not that hard to believe in the reality of God. Maybe the mockers should give God a chance, after all, if its all just about an ‘imaginary friend’ then what have they to lose? If God turns out to be real (which he is for the avoidance of doubt), then they certainly have a huge amount to gain, starting with life itself. So, the next time someone claims God not to be real, don’t be surprised if you are abused for saying God is real, but instead simply state the truth and allow God to work in people’s hearts.
This Christmas, let us put aside the worldly chaos and decide to focus on rejoicing for Christ has come to save us from our sin. No other faith system in the world that ever has or ever will exist has God coming to rescue his creation, yet the God of the Bible did just that. He did it for love and there is nothing ironic about that.