It is no wonder that children often confuse Jesus with the more corpulent and rosy-cheeked confrère, Santa Claus. Children are taught that both will bring them good things if they behave and that both will exact some form of punishment (though in Jesus’ case it is more often assumed that His Father who doles out the vengeance) if they behave poorly. Both are portrayed as bewhiskered, always watching, immortal, endowed with supernatural abilities and both are emblems of good cheer.
Jesus, we’re told when we’re young, prefers that we communicate with Him through prayers, while Santa, we’re advised, favors letters and even personally-delivered wishes, as long as we sit in his lap (preferably in a shopping mall). Jesus is touted to be our personal Savior while Santa is portrayed as a glorified personal shopping assistant. In both cases, you want to be on his or His “good” side to improve your chances of getting what you – stress you – want, be it a pony, a pocket knife or salvation.
Why is it that human beings are so keen on fashioning gods and mythical characters who serve them, rather than recognizing that the reverse might more likely be true? Are God and Santa truly as fickle as they’re made out to be, withholding love when we’re naughty and giving it when we’re “nice?” Or is it that we’re projecting our own capricious nature on that which is actually constant, impartial and dare I say, eternal?
I believe that that which is true to love never withholds love for any reason. The withdrawal of love is a distinctly human habit; it is the most destructive side-effect of judgment. The withdrawal of love is the primary cause of the greater part of human misery.
That God is portrayed as inconstant in His affections is to my mind one of the greatest misunderstandings in the modern world. God is omnipotent in the sense that love is the only power, but God can no more make heaven manifest on earth through some great chimney somewhere than Santa can.
Mankind is the mechanism through which heaven, that is, the dominion of love, is to be known on earth. So if the magical doings of a mythical character and the extraordinary tales of the brief ministry of a humble man whose heart was a hearth of love bring you to the point where you can eventually grow into an understanding of this central responsibility we share, well then, call me a believer!