Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Putting on the Santa Suit

Recently, I shared with you about why I think it's OK for Christians to believe in Santa Claus (sort of). Today, I thought I'd have a little bit of fun and continue with some thoughts on another great Santa movie - The Santa Clause. In this modern classic, Tim Allen is Scott Calvin, a divorced dad who wakes up to find Santa Claus on the roof of his house. When Santa gets startled and falls off the roof, Scott unwittingly puts on the suit and becomes the new Santa, but this isn't all easy for him to believe or accept at first...

It's an interesting movie, because (like many parents) Scott really wants his kid, Charlie, to believe in Santa - and he even pretends to believe, himself, at first - but when Scott actually begins the process of transforming into Santa, he doesn't believe what's happening, and he even tries to fight against it.

I think there are many parents who act the same way when it comes to Christianity. They want their kids to believe, and they claim to believe, themselves, but when it comes to making lifestyle changes and personal sacrifices, or when they hear that their kids want to become pastors and missionaries, they begin to fight against it. Do you really believe in Jesus and the changed life he calls us to, or do you believe - as the adults in Charlie's life do - that "Santa is more of a feeling, more of a state of mind than an actual person"?

The Bible tells us that if you believe something, then that belief should inform your actions (James 2:15-24). Our faith has to be more than just a collection of good ideas, or it's worthless! That's why the apostle Paul likens baptism to changing clothes - taking off the old way of life and "putting on" the ways of Jesus (Galatians 3:27). If we really believe what we say when we profess faith in Jesus, then we have to actively put an end to our sinful, selfish ways and choose each day to truly live the way Christ would live, taking on his characteristics more and more each day! (Romans 13:12-14)

That's the analogy we see in the movie. When Scott first puts on the Santa suit, it's as if he has just been baptized. He begins automatically to act a little bit like Santa, even though he still doesn't have all the answers to how things are supposed to work. He doesn't know yet how to get into a house that doesn't have a chimney. He hasn't learned yet to always have the proper Christmas spirit. He's not even sure if he understands all the things that are happening to him! It will take time for him to mature into the role. And so it is for young Christians: from the beginning, Christ starts a mighty work in us through his Holy Spirit, but we still have doubts and fears, and we still don't understand the fullness of what we're called to. The process of becoming Christlike requires us to eventually stop fighting against it and allow the changes to happen, just as Scott had to eventually give in and let his transformation into Santa happen!

Of course, if we're really gonna let our lives be shaped and changed by our beliefs, then we need to be pretty sure in what we believe in, don't we? Do you believe your beliefs simply because it's what you've always believed or it's what you've always been taught? Or is there evidence that backs up your beliefs? Charlie's belief in Santa was shaped by many things. Of course, there were the traditions that had been passed down to him by his parents and others. There were also his own experiences the night he flew around the world with his dad and ended up at the North Pole. And then there were the changes he saw in his dad's appearance and life. Charlie clung to these, even when everyone opposed him, and he was even willing to accept some things on faith because the evidence had supported enough of the story for him!

"Have you ever seen a million dollars?
Just because you haven't seen it,
doesn't mean it doesn't exist!"
- Charlie

So is there any evidence to supports your belief in the Bible or in Jesus? How about the way Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about him? How about the promises he keeps? Have you ever experienced a moment when God spoke to you through the Scriptures, or where he answered a prayer in an amazing way? Have you witnessed God's faithfulness for yourself? Or have you seen the changes he's made in someone else's life?

"Seeing isn't believing;
believing is seeing!"
- Judy the elf

If you've felt the leading of the Holy Spirit and have some assurance of God already, then why not take the rest of what he says on faith and go ahead and let him into every part of your life?! God doesn't just care about your appearance or about the words you say, but he cares about every aspect of your life, including your attitude, your thoughts, your relationships, and the way you treat others. God created you, and he cares about you, and he wants to be Lord of the whole person!

We who have been touched by the Lord ought to be on a path of becoming more like him. It's what we often refer to in the church as the process of sanctification, but it's just a fancy way of saying that we ought to grow up in Christ. We ought to be learning (as Scott does) to be less selfish and vindictive, and to be more forgiving and peaceful - to love as Christ loves. But growing like that requires us to surrender our will to him, and often along the way, we have to be reminded - just as Charlie reminds Scott multiple times - of who we are and who we are meant to be!

Scott finally embraces his new identity
and refuses to back down from it!
In the end, the change in us ought to be clear - as obvious as Santa Claus's beard! And we need to grow to the point that we are not ashamed of who we are in Christ. At first, Scott wanted to hide his new identity from everyone because he was afraid of what people would think, but in the end, we see him embracing his new identity wholeheartedly, refusing to even give the name "Scott Calvin" to the police, and welcoming even doubters like Charlie's step-dad, Neil, to see the change in him. That's the model for us! We ought to desire to be so like Christ that it is plain to see when anyone looks at our lives, and we ought to fully embrace our new identity in him, regardless of what the rest of the world may think!

Don't fight the person Jesus wants you to become (or the person he calls your children to be), but accept the calling - embrace it - and you may even be surprised at what God will do! Ours is a God who loves us, who wants good for us and for the world, and who can bring about changes for the better, even when no one else believes it's possible! As the angel said to Mary in the original Christmas story:

"Nothing will be impossible with God."
- Luke 1:37

I highly recommend a documentary I recently watched, called Becoming Santa. It's about a man whose parents recently passed away, and in an attempt to put a little more cheer into a lonely Christmas, he decides to bleach his beard, buy a suit, and become Santa Claus for a few weeks. He takes it very seriously, even going to a special school to learn more about what he should do, and he volunteers for a handful of Santa jobs around the country to get the whole experience.

Will you "put on the suit"?!
Along the way, the documentary presents the history of Santa (something I really only touched on last time), and we are treated to interviews with several men who have been Santa Claus year after year. One interesting moment comes late in the program, when someone says that he believes that being Santa Claus is a calling. He says it takes a special kind of person, with a generous and loving heart, to want to be Santa on a regular basis - and after watching the program, I have to agree!

I think we ought to look up to people like that - those who do what they do out of love and generosity. They don't do it for the notoriety, because "Santa Claus" gets all the glory, not the man wearing the suit! These men are simply living out their belief that children ought to be happy, and they ought to know that someone will listen to them and want good things for them. As Santa, they encourage children to do good and to do their own acts of love and generosity, as well.

"Little children, let us love, 
not in word or speech, 
but in truth and action."
- 1 John 3:18

All this is something for us to learn from. I hope it will inspire YOU to clothe yourself in Christ each day - to do more than just say you believe, but to go out and DO what you believe, and encourage others to do their beliefs, too! And may it change your life from this day forward!


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Please comment on this post. Do you agree with me? Do you disagree? Is there something I left out or should have covered? Was something confusing? I want to know what you think!