Just when you think the Santa season is over, a most interesting request was put to me. A local church’s men's group invited me to their monthly lunch gathering to give a talk, and this is in their own words, "speak to our group about your annual Santa gigs from a Christian perspective and your ability to spread the Good News". Now with the "post Santa gig season retrospect" going on, you may or may not be surprised to hear that my being Santa usually generates a series of rather critical comments, particularly in Church settings and because of these comments, I have come to realize that there are still some people, that unless something’s mentioned in the Bible, think that it’s wrong. So as I dwelt on this request to speak to this men’s group, my mind went to a few of those criticisms from my fellow Christians which felt like a criticism of my mission during the Christmas Season, and also my integrity.
What I’d say to those people who feel there is no place for Santa at a church event, or feel that is may be wrong or even evil, "ho ho no!". First I’d ask them to get to know me, then believe what they want, but please don't condemn what I consider to be my "Christmas Mission in life". My thoughts also go to the fact that Santa has been a centuries old tradition, focused on Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of charity. Saint Nicholas has been depicted wearing red, green and blue, having a large fur lined coat and furry hat, but many detractors still wish to maintain that Santa is strictly a commercial character, an invention of Coca Cola. However, self admittedly by Coke, they just borrowed Santa to promote their product. (By the way the Coke Santa has buttons, historically Santa only had fur).
Can my Santa be a Christian testimony and not detract from the true meaning of Christmas? Of course I would say "Yes". Christmas and the reason for its celebration should be in our hearts daily. Not just a December “thingee”. The purpose in celebrating Christmas daily should give us in part, a focus on Christ's birth and charity; Santa is the centuries old personification of charity. So I dress in a red suit for a few weeks of the year, to personify that charity in an incarnational kind of way.
It reminds me of the religious paintings on my motorcycle. In and of themselves they are nothing, but they become a drawing card to interested enthusiasts whereby we then enter into a conversation about Christ. Unbelievable! Often in December, just my appearance, my long white hair, white beard and big belly draws all kinds of people to me. People come up to me and say "I've been good, Santa" and I respond with, "but have you been a blessing to you family, kids, friends?" I then give them a candy "J" and inevitably the story turns to and focuses on who Christ is and the reason for his birth.
My mind goes back to a moment in time when I was dressed as Santa and an adult father sat on my knee and said "I've been good Santa"; his son chirped up, "but my sister hasn't, she ran away from home". For the next 45 minutes this father sat on my knee crying as we discussed the situation. Eventually I was able to connect him with relatives of mine who attended a local church who could work with him. That is only one story out many, but one that is very memorable to me. I will trade all of the criticism I receive for moments like that, and there have been many moments like that one.
As I type this short little essay, I have decided to accept the "gig" and explain my ministry to that group of men who I am quite sure have not been the biggest Santa fans in history, but seemingly have open hearts to listen to my testimony. Peace John vanDyck Jr.