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God's Christmas Image
If Santa is not the best image for Christmas, what image can most accurately reveal the meaning of this celebration to our children?

The traditional images of Christmas are often all too familiar to us. There are the religious images. Stables, mangers, swaddling cloths, babies, angels, shepherds, donkeys, wisemen, Mary and Joseph. There are also many more secular images including holly, chestnuts, wrapping paper, snowmen, reindeer and Santa (and some would add "crowded shopping malls"). But something is missing.

Cautiously they approached, woke him carefully and proceeded to interact with Santa.

One Christmas I had the opportunity to rent a Santa suit for a local school play. My children were young and had simply picked up on the idea of Santa from some of their friends. One afternoon while they were napping, I donned the suit and pretended to fall asleep on the rocking chair in the living room. I wanted to see their reaction, I suppose. Emerging from their snooze and still half asleep, our children found the "man in red" sleeping in their house! Cautiously they approached, woke him carefully and proceeded to interact with Santa.

After hearing their requests for Christmas morning, Santa stood to his feet with a loud "Ho, ho, ho," and joyously left the house via the garage door. The children hurriedly found their mother to tell her about their amazing experience.

In the meantime their father mysteriously returned through the front door having just "returned from the post office." My oldest daughter, sensing that something smelled fishy, retraced Santa's steps through the garage where she found a bundle of red clothes and a white beard neatly tucked away in a plastic bag. The gig was up! Santa had been exposed!

Without having to incur the expense of costly therapy, our children have been able to sufficiently recover from the shocking discovery that Santa was just "Dad!" Exposing the image of "Santa" changed their young perspectives on Christmas. Now any trip to visit Santa is for the sole purpose of getting one of the candy canes he so freely gives away (the trick is to find the Santa that gives away the largest cane!) But if Santa is clearly not the best image for Christmas, what is? What image can most accurately expose the meaning of this celebration to my children and to you and me?

In reality, every day the real image of Christmas is exposed. As God looked down from heaven with compassion on His human creation, He sent Jesus to become like us so that through His obedience we would have the opportunity of living a life of forgiveness and hope. Every day people come to this realization and by it expose the real image of Christmas. Scripture says that because God so loved people He sent His only Son Jesus so that His people could be saved and in turn love Him (see Jon 3:16).

The image of "people" is not one that often comes to our mind when we celebrate Christmas. But it should be. This was the image God saw when He sent Jesus to be born in that manager in Bethlehem. He saw the image of you, me and countless others who are lost, hopeless and in need of salvation.

It was because of His love for what He saw that God sent His Son. As you set up your nativity scene this Christmas and as you arrange the shepherds, angels, barn animals and other figurines in the stable, don't forget to include a portrait of yourself. After all, this was the image God saw when He looked down on Bethlehem that first Christmas day.

Jon Ohlhauser is President of Prairie Bible Institute, and a frequent speaker in churches. You can contact him at jon.ohlhauser@prairie.edu.

Originally published in Servant Magazine, Fall 2003.
http://www.prairie.edu/

 

 
 
 
 

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