★ Day 23 – Reason for the Season – Can Christians Condone Claus? ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1

23 - Daily Dependence - Reverend Fun - It’s Not on Your Christmas List, But…I love the different approach this comic takes… often times you see Santa as the focal point during this time of year but there is a deep spiritual truth revealed here that we need to get a grasp on…Instead of looking at this time of year for the accumulation of stuff, let’s look to receive from Jesus what we really need.  About a week ago Candace Cameron Bure posted on Facebook page a response to the selfie she shared wearing this Ugly Sweater 23 - Daily Dependence - Ugly Seaterthat has people in an uproar about the sacrilegious nature of it.  You have probably seen this sweater and I am not sharing this to stir up controversy but rather to raise awareness to this issue of the tension of Santa vs Jesus and pose this question…Is there “Can Christians Condone Claus?  The website Faithit has a great article about the scandalous sweater selfie, shared Candance’s response to her critics (12/16/2015)…

“I see this sweater as a bridge between commercialism and the real meaning of Christmas, that invites conversation.”

The debate about whether or not Christians should perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus has been raging for centuries.  There are people on both sides of the issue, each with their own reasons why or why not to proliferate the reality of a heavy jolly man in a red suit who travels the world in a single night, delivering presents to good girls and boys by way of a chimney and then and drives away on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer23 - Daily Dependence - Santa Flying throgh the Sky…Wow, just saying that all in a sentence you realize the enormity of the tale…In yesterday’s ★ Day 22 – Reason for the Season – Part of the Stable Few? ★ post, we looked at the heart of worship that the Wise Men modeled for us to emulate…Today’s “Reason for the Season” is not intended to sway you one way or another or even to add to the debate, but rather to have a conversation as Candance Cameron put it, and look at what Santa Claus represents and apply it to our life!

Over the centuries Santa Claus has gone by many different names from Old Saint Nick to Kris Kingle to Father Christmas to St. Nicolas…to name a few.  It is the last name I would like to delve into on for a moment or two.  I did a little research and found a quick biography on St. Nicholas on “bio.” website.  In the article they said he was…

“Born in Patara, a land that is part of present-day Turkey, circa 280, St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who helped the needy.  After his death, the legend of his gift-giving grew. St. Nicholas transformed into the legendary character called Santa Claus, who brings Christmas presents to children around the world.” 

The helping of the needy and the gift-giving part of St. Nicolas is what I think we can all grab hold of as a positive influence that Santa Claus can have.  Many Christians wrestle with whether or not to expose their children to Santa Claus or not, it is a decision that every parent has to decide for themselves.  My co-worker I were discussing Old Saint Nick yesterday as we enjoyed a beautiful lunch in the park, and he said something to the effect that Santa has nothing to do with Christmas so why would I even bring him into my home.  He definitely has a point and again I don’t want to step on any toes, so I will just share with what I have experienced and if you bear with me I’m sure that God will speak through this post or at least that’s my prayer.

Growing up my mom, who was a single-parent raising three kids on her own, (having gotten divorced when I was five,) made Christmas a very magical time for all of us and Santa Claus was a part of that magic…Ones that I never would want to have missed out on.  For my wife and I…we decided to continue on the legacy of Santa Claus as well but talked at length about the significance of the holiday being all about Jesus and explaining the Christmas story each and every year.  Part of the teaching that we did about Santa Claus was that he represented the spirit of giving and helping others.  But I can assure you that our children undoubtedly walked away with a firm understanding that the greatest act of giving and goodwill to men was by God sending his Son…as the Angels proclaimed to the Shepherds…

“Glory to God in the highest,
  And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
  Luke 2:14 (NKJV)

So in my opinion, and I know that this is not shared by everybody, Santa Claus…or should I say the man he was named after…St. Nicholas is a representation of the goodwill that I want my children to show to others as they grow up.

When you think of Santa there have been many different depictions for the jolly man in the red suite, artist Norman Rockwell for me captured some of the best!

23 - Daily Dependence - Norman Rockwell Collage

I have always loved the last painting in particular, call23 - Daily Dependence - Norman Rockwell - The Discovery Covered “The Discovery.”  It was published on December 29, 1956 in the Saturday Evening Post, capturing the stunned expression of this poor little boy when he discovers the truth about Santa.  Rockwell’s portraits have always evoked an instant sense of nostalgia in me by drawing me into a time period that seems like no other…where childlike wonder abounds and innocence is once again tangible.  That is what I think Santa Claus does as well…the myth of this benevolent gift-giver generates a faith that there is something bigger than ourselves and opens our eyes to see life in a different way.

This Christmas I pray your eyes will be opened to believe into something so much greater than a good man who delivers presents to deserving children, but rather to the Savior of the World, born of the virgin Mary, who lived the humblest of lives and died in the most horrific way in order to bridge the divide that existed (see Isaiah 59:2).  The apostle Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)…

“God saved you by His grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

God sent Jesus to be the payment for our sin and so when we believe in Jesus and trust Him as your savior, you receive a free gift that you could never earn…God’s Grace.  We started this “Reason for the Season” to look to receive from Jesus what we really need and that is Grace, the free and unmerited favor of God which is available to anyone who will take the step of faith.  Take a look at this picture.  23 - Daily Dependence - Ephesians 2 - 8-9 - Grace is the BridgeI am a visual learner so for me that nails what Grace is in a nutshell.  It is the bridge, the path to restore the connection between God and us!  HOW AMAZING IS THAT?  Immortalized in song by former slave trader John Newton, Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!!”  23 - Daily Dependence - Fit Family - Amazing GraceGrace that stands in the gap for us…Without Jesus coming to earth, the separation that our sin caused would keep us from God (see Romans 6:23.)  So what about you?  Is there a bridge or a gap between you and God?  Jesus said in Matthew 18:2-4 (NASB),

“And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Humility is key!  I will close with this final thought from Max Lucado,

“Santa Claus may be fun at Christmas, but he pales in comparison to the One who reigns forevermore. Jesus can give you what you really need.” 

I could not agree with that statement anymore, but what I do love about Santa Claus is the awe and wonder he cultivates in a child’s imagination…so why can Christians condone Claus?  Because it is a great starting point for a child to believe in the in the miraculous which is this season is all about.  The Christmas story in a sentence is…

Christmas is God’s salvation plan through the virginal Birth of His Son in a Palestinian Stable over 2,000 years ago to be the perfect sacrifice for the redemption of His People!

23 - Daily Dependence - Romans 15-13This season approach Christmas and Jesus with childlike faith, with awe and wonder for it is a time for the miraculous – may a new level of faith be birthed in you!  Here is my Prayer for you!!

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13 (NLT)

I have two supplements to today’s “Reason for the Season” for you:

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 24 – Reason for the Season – Best Christmas Gift Ever! ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 03 – Reason for the Season – Let Hope Arise ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1In the ★ Thought for the Day – Overwhelmed or Overcoming? ★ we looked into what problems really are…How to avoid being overwhelmed, and more importantly how to overcome them, if you missed it, I highly recommend reading it in tandem with today’s “Reason for the Season” as it has everything to do with Hope.

Christmas can be a really challenging time for people, whether because of loneliness or as a result of losing a loved one or because of some hardship.  For me, this Christmas has been a little difficult because of my mother’s condition.  On December 23, 2010 we had an incredible day with my sister sightseeing in New York City, in which we hit all the hotspots…We saw the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center, played the “Big Piano” in FAO Schwarz Toy Store and the kids saw Santa Claus at Macy’s Department Store.  03 - Daily Dependence - NYC SightseeingIt was an incredible day when all of a sudden the rug was pulled out from under us when we got the call that my mom was rushed to the hospital after having a massive stroke that almost killed her.  Nothing prepares you for that call, and let me tell you the train ride back to New Jersey was the longest trip of my life.  The next 5 days in the hospital was a rollercoaster of emotions, filled with extensive praying and tears as one doctor after another rendered a very bleak prognosis of her future.  We went from “what do we do if she flat lines,” to “she may never speak or walk again”…It was a truly gut-wrenching time.  5 years later I am so thankful that not only did my mother survive; she is able to speak and walk and is a living miracle (as there was not an iota of hope that was given by the doctors.)  The reason that this time is a little hard for me is that though my mom is doing well, her life, “the new normal” as they call it after a stroke is radically different.  My mom thoroughly enjoyed Christmas and went overboard to make a magical time for everyone.  Truly my love for the season is a direct result of all that she poured out for everyone else.  As I think back to that time 5 years ago, I am so thankful that we were in town visiting for Christmas when that happened because I could not imagine getting that call and being over 1,500 miles away and I am thankful that God showed up in the way He did because though it was a horrific time, I experienced His Love, mercy and grace in a way I never had before!

Today’s “R03 - Daily Dependence - Fit Family - Let Hope Ariseeason for the Season” is one that is “a rose-colored glasses” everything is great, peaches and cream viewpoint but rather a call to action that regardless of the hardship, circumstance or doctor’s prognosis…we need to “Let Hope Arise!” I cannot think of a better image than this rose struggling to survive in the cold snow laden ground.  If Christmas is a tough time for you, I pray that God would stir your heart as you read this post and well up in you the truth that there is Hope in every situation when you trust in Him!  We talked on the first day about the Advent Wreath, in which there are 4 candles that are lit each week in the season of Advent and the fifth is lit on the last day.  

03 - Daily Dependence - Advent Wreath 1The first purple candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath represents Hope.  Advent Wreath.  Day 2 of the 121 Advent Bible Plan says,

“In Scripture, however, hope is void of uncertainty.  In fact, certainty is at its core, because it rests in the stability of God, His character and His will, which are unwavering.  Biblical hope, then, can be defined as, “the confident expectation and desire for something good in the future…Hope is essential to our faith.”

“Hope is essential to our faith!”  If you are feeling alone, hopeless and at the end of your rope, I want to encourage you to change your perspective because God is a miracle working God!  Like in my mother’s condition, He can breathe life back into your situation.  I love what Marty Collier said,

“Hope is our assurance that God will finish all He has started.
Hope is our confidence that He will do all He has promised.”

The Bible is full of stories of God’s promises.  One such story in the Old Testament that comes to mind, is that of Abram (later renamed Abraham,) who God chose to be the Father of the nation of Israel and promised him and his wife that though they were old, and she was barren, they would conceive and have a son (you can read the account in Genesis 17-18).  Sound familiar?  That is the same story from yesterday’s ★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★ about Zechariah and Elizabeth.  God loves stacking the odds up against Him, and all we need to do is believe.  Romans 4:18-24 (ESV) describes Abraham’s belief…

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”  He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.  

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.  That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”  But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,”

ABRAHAM BELIEVED AGAINST HOPE!  Regardless of the situation we can have the same unwavering faith!  Day 6 of the 121 Advent Bible Plan talked about Abraham’s hope…

“Abraham’s circumstances seemed humanly impossible.  The promise of an heir was hopeless in the face of old age and barrenness.  But when hope rests on God, who can and does, in fact, do the impossible (Matthew 19:26), the realm of possibility has no bounds.  Our hope abounds in His ability, His goodness and His faithfulness toward us, His children.  We have “full assurance of hope.”

“With God everything is possible!”  You can read more on Abraham in (Romans 4:16-21 NLT).  I share this because this is not some dusty old history lesson but is applicable to you and I today!  Lamentations 3:22-24 (NLT) says,

“The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him.”

God’s love for you and me will never end!  He is merciful and faithful.  Problems are going to happen.  We live in a “Fallen World” and Satan is always looking to cause hardships in our life in to discourage us and turn us away from God.  People are going to get sick and bad things will happen but when we persevere and look to God, we can overcome the adversity; and when we do, it will develop and change us, breaking the focus from ourselves and make us more like Jesus so that we can help others!!  Again all we need to do is TRUST GOD in whatever we are going through today and let it transform us! I will close with this beautiful promise that was made in Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)…

I am so thankful for this truth and for what God did in my mom and in my heart!!  God has a plan for you and me, to give us a future and a hope, so LET YOUR HOPE ARISE in God today!

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Elizabeth – The Voice of Blessing.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Elizabeth’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here… ★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness

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