I recently received a email from one of my friends in the New York City area sharing his fatherhood adventures in fielding questions like:
"Is Santa real?"
"Are Bible stories real?"
"What about Angels appeared to Joseph?"
"Where are those Angels Today"?
Here's some rambling thoughts of pastoral life, hope they help:
I think some of the same things and often have some of the same thoughts. Let me start by quoting St. Augustine, a north African theologian who formed so much of western Christianity. He once famously said, “fides quaerens intellectum” as in the life of the Christian is “faith seeking understanding."
So let me craft a few lines that may present some clarity in thinking.
Crisis of Faith in Santa
The Santa lore in my book is fantastic! It’s the magic and lore of believing in the Christmas spirit. It’s wonderful how every child believes and looks forward to Santa and then one day in 5-th-6th grade there’s a quiet revelation that children slowly grow out of — and then "believe" themselves because it represents a wonderful western world concept of Christmas. I remember in high school we still put cookies and milk out! (For then my middle school sister of course.)
In my mind, childhood goes by so quick and the media driven world as we know continues to show us just how strange and complex a place we live. Given these things, this western institution needs to be preserved. I certainly don’t want to live in world driven by only reason, logic and mathematics. Though these things are important, I also want a world full of art, music, and lore. And as a parental confession, I work to preserve a prolonged age of innocence filled with ice cream, silliness and yes even Santa. We will have many years with our adult children but we only really have a few short years of raising children. These sacred years are to be treasured and enjoyed before they slip way in our northeastern pace of life.
On this premise, I say, long live Santa!
Crisis of Faith.
Let’s start with the, "Why not today question?” Ironically this is the same question that Mary asked, “How can this be?” Luke 2:34. In her day there was 400 years of “silence” from the rebuilding of the wall in Nehemiah to the Birth of Christ where God did not speak, no prophets, no angels, no sages. Only war. It was the Persians, the Greeks, the Hasomeans, and then the Romans this was a time of doubt, distrust, murder, and all manner of mayhem.
But in that mist of oppression — God spoke. God became Man. Salvation became Human. We had Christmas.
On this side of the cross, we have a fulfillment of Joel 2 in Acts 2: 17-18
17“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18even on my male servantsc and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
The reality is that Christians in the global south still experience these things. I personally have seen angels in our home, pulled a demon out one of wife's clients (she's a therapist), and after service I saw someone’s leg grow while God was healing her. These phenomenological things still occur and are alive and well!
So let me anticipate an objection, “Great. Why don’t we still see them regularly?”
Well, they are normal in global south church life, it’s just harder for God to move in our western STEM culture. People must be open to the phenomenological work of the Spirit. John 14:13 states, "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Simply put, if we ask, God will show himself. Though in our STEM culture we are simply not open to such things primarily because we would rather have God put super on our natural then ask for the supernatural.
And “No” we are not left to seek Jesus in the oddities of life or answer the problem of evil with a “that’s God’s will”. I think Simeon of the Christmas story in Luke 2:25-26, helps us understand such things:
"Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah.”
Simeon was righteous and devout and no doubt wondering why the Romans were in the Holy Land. Yet, somewhere in life and in prayer he asked God for the phenomena and God gave it to him. I think if we ask for God to reveal himself then He will. And while we wait for the signs we can live St. Augustine’s advice of "faith seeking understanding”.
So that note, Merry Christmas!!