A MAN-MADE GOD
By Milburn Cockrell
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Ex. 20:3-5).
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (I John 5:21).
The Holy Scriptures prohibit us from worshipping any man-made God. When you mention an idol most people think of a heathen bowing before some stone image in the jungle. But idolatry is putting any object in the place of God or before God. At this season I fear that many people are guilty of worshipping a man-made god, either knowingly or unknowingly. Santa Claus has become a God-substitute. Although people say they are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, it is a known fact that Santa Claus is mentioned more in most homes than Jesus Christ.
At this season of the year little children are told Santa Claus is coming to town. We see images of him with his white beard, dressed in a red suit, riding in his sleigh drawn by eight reindeer. Parents and grandparents say it would be wrong to rob little children of their belief in Santa Claus. The observant Christian can see that it is Santa Claus the myth, not Christ the reality, who is the center of attraction at this time of the year. Christmas could not survive without Santa Claus.
ORIGIN OF SANTA CLAUS
The origin of Santa Claus grew out of legends and superstitions of the ancient nations. The pagan German deities before the time of Christ were believed to come down the chimney to give rewards and punishments to people. They were gods of fire and solar gods, called hearth spirits. In China each year this fire god, dressed in a fiery red cap and jacket, traveled from the distant heavens to visit homes and distribute favors or punishments.
The image of Santa Claus in its more modern form began in the fourth century. A Roman Catholic bishop named Nicholas is said to have lived in what is now Turkey about 1,700 years ago. The World Book Encyclopedia says of St. Nicholas: “The beloved legend of Santa Claus, who brings gifts to all good children at Christmas time, is connected with Saint Nicholas, who was an actual person. . . .The stories about Saint Nicholas say that he lived during the A.D. 300’s. . . .One story is told that on three nights in a row he tossed bags of gold into the window of three girls who did not have the money for a dowry and so could not get married. This story may have started the custom of giving gifts at Christmas” (Vol. 12, p. 5680).
After Saint Nicholas died mothers told children that good Nicholas might visit them again at Christ’s mass. This idea supposed that this bishop had died and rose from the dead, for he could not have brought gifts after his death without rising from the dead. At first most European people celebrated December 6, the date of Saint Nicholas’ death, as a special holiday. As the years past the 6th of December gave place to December 25th. This is why Santa Claus is sometimes called even today Saint Nicholas. In Holland Christmas is still celebrated on December 6, the day of Saint Nicholas’ death.
Santa Claus has many different names in various countries of the world. Saint Nicholas in America is now called Santa Claus. The Dutch children shortened “Nicholas” to Claus,” and the Spanish influence in the Netherlands changed “Saint” to “Santa.” In Germany he is called Kris Kringle and in France Pere Noel (Father Christmas).
“In Holland St. Nicholas appeared, as he still does today, in the colorful regalia of a medieval bishop, including the red miter upon his head and the long cape draped from his shoulders. In America the miter and cape became the colorful cap and suit of our Santa Claus, both bright red and trimmed with fur. Instead of the serious mien of a bishop, he became a fat, jovial figure with white beard and ruddy nose and cheeks, a mixture of human and supernatural attributes” (Colliers Encyclopedia, Vol. 20, pp. 414-415).
Santa Claus in its modern form came from a poem in 1822 written by Clement C. Moore A Visit from St. Nicholas, which gives a picture of the saint as we know him today. But even this poem, which begins with the familiar line “`Twas the night before Christmas,” the name of Santa Claus does not appear. Thomas Nast, the cartoonist, gave the first picture of Santa Claus as he is imagined today in a cartoon, in 1863. Later his famous drawing Santa Claus and His Works, which appeared as a Christmas picture in Harper’s Weekly in 1866, showed Santa Claus in his workshop with his record of the good and bad deeds of all children. The drawing also showed the sleigh with reindeer, the pack of toys, the stockings hung at the fire-place, and the Christmas tree (See World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 15, pp. 7211-7212).
The modern Santa Claus myth originated with St. Nicholas, a Roman Catholic monk who is believed to have lived in the fourth century in what is now called Turkey about 1,700 years ago. After his death mothers told their children that though he was dead yet he lived again and would visit them on the night of the mass of Christ and give them gifts if they had been good. Although the name has changed sometimes from country to country, the myth is still being told unto this very day. In America Santa Claus is a mixture of human and supernatural attributes. In his sleigh drawn by eight reindeer he flies miraculously over the house tops of the world in one single night, leaving gifts to all.
SANTA CLAUS, AN ANTICHRIST
The average person would have us to believe that the Santa Claus myth is just clean, wholesome fun for little children. They say it is a thing to develop the imagination of children. But his is hardly the case. In truth Santa Claus is an antichrist, a God-substitute, a man-made god, a working of the spirit of iniquity. If you move the “n” in Santa” to the last “a” you have Satan.”
Consider the popular Christmas song that we hear at this time of the year:
You better watch out, you better not cry,Better not pout, I’m telling you why—Santa Claus is coming to town! He’s making a list and checking it twice,Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice—Santa Claus is coming to town! He sees you when you’re sleeping,He knows when you’re awake,He knows if you’ve been bad or good—So be good for goodness sake! Oh! You better watch out, you better not cry,Better not pout, I’m telling you why—Santa Claus is coming to town!
If you will take the time to examine what is being said here about Santa Claus, you will see that he has the attributes of Jesus Christ. There is nothing in the universe like Christ. But Santa Claus is just as unique as Jesus Christ.
Christ is eternal (John 1:1-3). So is Santa Claus. He was never born and no one knows who his parents were. It would also seem that he has no end.
Christ is unchangeable (Heb. 13:8). Santa Claus has not aged in 1,700 years. He is no older now than when I was a little child. He still looks the same today as he did a hundred years ago.
Christ is omniscient (John 21:17). So is Santa Claus. The popular song says: “He sees you when you’re sleeping, He knows when you’re awake, He knows if you’ve been bad or good. . .” Santa Claus can see all over the world, and he knows the good or bad conduct of little children.
Christ is omnipotent (Matt. 28:18), but so is Santa Claus. At Christmas time Santa can do anything. Poor parents may live in the slums and not have a dime to their name, but Santa Claus can bring their children almost any present. Nothing is too hard for him.
Christ is omnipresent (Matt. 28:20), but so is St. Nick. He can be in every department store in the city, on TV, in the supermarkets, on the street corners, in churches, at Christmas parties—all at the same time. On Christmas Eve he leaves the North Pole and travels over the whole world, going down everybody’s chimney, leaving gifts in just one single night!
Christ is sovereign (John 5:21). So is Santa. Who has authority over him? In what court can he be tried? To whom is he responsible? He is over all.
Christ is good (Acts 10:38). So is Santa Claus. He is very good to children who have behaved very well. He is the giver of good gifts to all at Christmas time.
Christ is righteous (I John 2:1). But Christ has nothing on Santa Claus, for Santa has no moral imperfections. Has he ever done any wrong to any person? Has he ever confessed his sins?
Christ is just (I Peter 3:18), but so is Santa Claus his mythical substitute. “You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why—Santa Claus is coming to town.” Santa is coming in the character of a judge to examine the conduct of little children. He is a rewarder and punisher like Christ. Boys and girls must live to please him if they want their stockings filled.
Christ is forgiving (Mark 2:10), but so is the imaginary Santa Claus. Although children are not always good, Santa still fills their stockings with candy and puts them presents under the Christmas tree. So Santa is forgiving just like Christ! Most children learn that you do not have to be good to get your present each Christmas.
This should be enough to convince any person that Santa Claus is a substitute for Jesus Christ. Saint Nicholas died, but after he died mothers told their children that good Nicholas might visit them again at the mass of Christ. This would have meant that Saint Nicholas rose from the dead—an imitation of the resurrection of Christ. The Bible says that Christ will come again to reward His servants as to their being good or bad (II Cor. 5:9-11; Rev. 22:11). Santa comes every year to reward the good and bad—a cheap imitation of the second coming of Jesus Christ.
SANTA CLAUS HARMFUL TO CHILDREN
Santa Claus is a lie. There is no such person. It is to be seriously doubted that the man Saint Nicholas ever existed. The Encyclopedia Britannica (Vol. 16, p. 477) says that “his existence is not attested by any historical document, so nothing certain is known of his life.” There is not now, nor has there ever been, a man who lives at the North Pole and works all year to make toys to give to children on Christmas Eve. There is no such thing as a man who rides in a sleigh up in the sky which is pulled by eight reindeer. Reindeer might pull a sleigh on the ground, but never in the air.
How sad that little children fight with their playmates to prove there is a Santa Claus and that mother and father are telling the truth. The Santa Claus myth is a system of perpetual lying to little children. Their little bright eyes ask with all seriousness: “Is there really a Santa Claus? Can Santa’s reindeer really fly? Does Rudolph have a red nose?” When parents answer these trusting little hearts in the affirmative they are lending their personal authority to a big lie! The lie becomes a truth to the child.
Should a Christian lie? The Bible answer is plain. Exodus 20:16 says: “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” God says of His people in Isaiah 63:8: “Surely they are my people, children that will not lie. . .” How can parents who lie to their children about Santa Claus fit this description? Ephesians 4:25 commands us to put “away lying.”
Parents punish their children for lying to them about things, but then they turn around and lie to the children about Santa Claus. How inconsistent and foolish. No wonder there is a generation gap! No wonder children grow up to believe Christ is a myth. Such lies destroy the child’s faith in his parents. He finds out that Santa, a man with God-like attributes, is a fake. He then thinks that Santa is for little kids and Christ is for big kids!
Henry Work, M.D., a Bethesda, Maryland, child psychiatrist and former chairman of the department of child psychiatry of UCLA, made some interesting comments about the Santa Claus lie: “Is it smart to use the image of an all-seeing, all-knowing Santa Claus to influence a child’s behavior? You know the line—`You’d better be good or Santa won’t leave any presents under the tree!’ It’s often used as an effective, if harsh, way to bring an unruly youngster back into line at this time of the year. The answer to the question is no” (Better Homes and Gardens, Dec. 1984, p. 45).
The Santa Claus lie destroys the child’s faith in his parents. It is quite a shock when he discovers his parents have been lying and laughing behind his back all these years. He was a fool for fighting to prove them right at school. Credibility is gone. Doubts and suspicions linger long in his mind. He begins to doubt what mom and dad have said about the Bible, God, morals, and his country! One little boy who had learned the truth about Santa Claus was heard to say to his classmate: “Now that I know that there is no Santa Claus I intend to check into this Jesus Christ thing also!”
This myth tends to teach children salvation by good works. The song says: “He’s making a list and checking it twice, Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.” This gives the impression to a child that the way of acceptance is being “nice.” This is not true. Salvation is in one trusting in the blood and righteousness of Christ. It is not any kind of good works performed by man. Santa Claus is just another form of Arminianism!
Santa Claus is preparing the way for the Antichrist. He is presently a Christ-substitute. The final Antichrist will be a man who will give gifts to all and solve all the problems of the world. He will promise to make every day one big Christmas for all (Rev. 11:9-10)! No wonder the world will gladly receive him and worship him!
Santa Claus is a false Christ. He should have no place in the homes and churches of real Christians. Don’t tell your children the Santa Claus lie. Tell them about Jesus Christ. Tell them to pay homage to the ever-living Christ born of a virgin, and forget the “visions of sugarplums” in your head! Tell them of how Christ shed His red blood for sinners, not about some fat man in a red suit who does not exist.
I wish to conclude this message by reading a letter that a young mother wrote to Santa Claus:
“Dear Santa Claus:
“You’ll probably be surprised to receive this letter from an adult. You may be even more surprised as you read it to find that the writer is neither a maiden aunt nor a disgruntled bachelor. I’m a young mother.
“It isn’t my intention, Santa, to hurt your feelings. You see, my family has paid tribute to you for many past Christmases: my husband and I when we were in our childhood; now our children who are 6, 4, and 2. They still care for you. How much they care has really proved a problem in recent years. It is threatening to happen again this holiday season.
“Our children worship you. They speak of you constantly. They watch diligently for your December 25 appearance. Can you tell us, Santa, what you have done to deserve this faithfulness from two generations? Can you promise any future consideration in exchange for past loyalties?
“During a family crisis, have you ever told us, “Lo, I am with you alway”? Were you ever with us during sorrow to comfort us with these words: “But your sorrow will be turned into joy”? And, Santa, there have been doubtful times. Where were you? We didn’t hear from you the calming message, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
“We have come to the conclusion that you have been even less than a friend should be. And we have been shortchanged. My three children have stood on a windy, cold mainstreet just to get a glimpse of your jolly face. They have written heartfelt yearly letters. They have gone to department stores to whisper in your ear. They have worked hard at being good in anticipation of your Christmas Eve visit. Yes, they’ve done all this—as their father and I did before them.
“But there’s going to be a change this Christmas. There isn’t going to be any Santa Claus worship in our home. We’ve decided to focus our attention and adoration on another Being—One who has stood by us the other 364 days this past year; One who has comforted us during the sorrowful and doubtful times—and yes, the times of crisis also.
Ít’s true that your name will probably be mentioned around our house, Santa. Old habits are hard to break abruptly. But Someone Else’s name will be mentioned much more often. The children will probably work just as hard at being good, but I hope they will do it for another inducement—one that will last the whole year long—to bring glory to Another’s name. That other One has given us so much more—and not just on Christmas Eve!
“You may call our family fickle, Santa, but we won’t mind. On this December 25, and all through the year, we want a Comforter, a Healer, astrengthening King. We don’t want a myth any longer.
“We’ve talked it over. This year we’ve decided to give tribute, honor, and worship to Someone who really deserves them—to the True Giver—Our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
A Young Mother”