MYTH #9: SANTA CLAUS IS NOT A MYTH.
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” is still one of the most famous lines in American journalism, which sadly in these days has become more than corrupted.
Taken from an editorial by Francis Church entitled “Is There a Santa Claus?”, this line which appeared in The Sun on September 21, 1897, has been quoted every year since. And while Francis Church wrote many lovely sentiments in his famous article, he also inserted some dangerous errors in his logic.
This excerpt from the editorial shows some logical truth:
Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
But sadly, he misses the mark by at least half, and indeed seems to contradict his own first premise by telling the child this:
Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
None of these four things he mentions are exclusively “real and abiding”, though they sound good in a sentimental sort of way. Faith, for instance, is only as “real and abiding” as the OBJECT of that faith. Faith, and the amount of faith is nothing. The object of even a little faith is everything.
Poetry as a concept is only as abiding as the writings of mankind. Much of that has been lost in the sands of time.
Love is contingent upon the love giver, and with many humans their love dies. Ah. But there might be One, namely God himself, who is said to “BE LOVE.”
If that is the case, and I believe it to be true, then love may be the only thing in his list that is “real and abiding” as long as it comes from the true love giver—God. For a Christ-follower who believes the Bible is true, it says “God is Love.”
1 John 4:7-12
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
Francis Church got that one right, but as for romance? Romance is defined by Webster’s as, “a medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural.”
Again, as a Christ-follower who believes the Bible is true, this one may also be “real and abiding”. Romance as a tale, therefore, if the tale points to the TRUE MYTH, as C. S. Lewis describes it, may also be “real and abiding”.
Lewis writes about this in his letter to Arthur Greeves:
Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths. (October 18, 1931)
Francis Church may have gotten “romance” correct too, in his letter to Virginia, if it refers to the “true myth” as Lewis defines it.
As far, then, as Francis Church’s four proofs to a little girl goes, he is not telling the truth.
And neither is the world as it substitutes Santa Clause for truth.
However, wait. There was a real, living man based on the legend. That man was also a Christ-follower who believed the Bible is true. That man was Nicholas of Myra.
Though he’s one of the most popular saints in the Greek and Latin churches, his existence isn’t attested by any historical document. All we can say is that he was PROBABLY the bishop of Myra (near modern Finike, Turkey) sometime in the 300s.
Supposedly, Nicholas was wealthy. In the most famous story about his life, he secretly threw bags of gold through the windows of three girls about to be forced into lives of prostitution, to provide a proper dowry for them.
Nicholas was chosen by the people of Myra to be their bishop. But when Diocletian and Maximian began their persecutions of Christians, they threw Nicholas in prison.
When Constantine became emperor, Nicholas was released with countless others and returned to his preaching.The people revered his memory. Some think he has been represented by Medieval artists more frequently than any nearly any other saint.
Sadly, somewhere along the line with his gold- giving fame, people began giving presents in Nicholas’ name on his feast day. When the Reformation came along, Martin Luther, for example, replaced this bearer of gifts with the Christ Child, or, in German, Christkindl. Over the years, that became repronounced Kriss Kringle, now considered another name for Santa Claus.
I believe Gaye Frances Willard got it right in her painting, “Every Knee Shall Bow” as seen below, where Santa Clause in his red suit, kneels before the manger of Jesus.
Gaye Frances Willard describes the meaning behind her painting on her website:
Christ entered our humanness with all of its brokenness, pain & sin, knowing the price He would pay for our redemption. But His glory lit a Bethlehem sky and gave angels a song on the night of His birth. It is in glory that He will return. When He does, every eye will see Him & every knee will bow. “So that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow.” (Philippians 2:10)
This Christmas, when we see the red-suited santas and think of Francis Church’s logical fallacies that led to the deception of children everywhere, let’s not mix up truth with myth. Let’s look for the “True Myth” such as changed atheist C. S. Lewis into a Christ-follower.
And let’s remember that Christ will return. And like the real Nicholas of Myra (Santa Claus), imprisoned for following Jesus, may every knee, yours and mine, bow for the amazing, miraculous, astonishing Messiah—the King of kings—who was born for us.