John Piper, Santa, and Christmas

Posted: December 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

As I sit typing this post I am looking out over the city of Minneapolis, a cloudy sky, and falling snow. I love this time of year. I love the weather, the songs, the parties, the cookies, the presents, and even the chance to go shopping. On Friday we will pack the van and then hit the interstate and travel  to Kentucky to visit family. With family we will eat too much, enjoy good drinks, laugh, sing, play, nap, and exchange gifts. I am excited to travel home, see everyone, and live through another Christmas holiday.

Yet, in everything I just said nothing was mentioned about Jesus, the incarnation, or the cross. Thus, the experience of Christmas as described in the first paragraph is deficient. In fact, it is Christmas as the world celebrates it. It is Christmas without the reason for the season. It is a celebration that doesn’t involve the very one who the season is meant to celebrate.

I am afraid that this has too often described the way I celebrate Christmas. Now, I’m a seminary student, a former pastor, an aspiring theologian, and from the outside it is likely that no one would think I have forgotten about Jesus in the midst of his birthday. Yet, inside of me, this is often the case. I let other things (parties, presents, and prolonged napping) take the place of God-besoughted, Christ-centered, Spirit-led celebration of the incarnation. In fact, I’ll go ahead and assume I’m not alone. We often let “other things,” even other “good” things, marginalize the one thing that matters most during Christmas. Namely, the “stuff” gets in the way of seeing and savoring Jesus.

One thing that often pushes Jesus to the peripheral is Santa. I’m not on a crusade about Santa. Honestly, I like the jolly man who dresses up and brings gifts to kids. He isn’t totally fictitious. There was, after all, St. Nick. Yet, what I am concerned about is the place of prominence that Santa seems to occupy. He is the giver of gifts, not God the Father (the debates with my 5 year old about who brings gifts and who is real and not real [Jesus or Santa] are scary). In our culture, he is often more closely associated with the holiday than Jesus. Thus, my contention is not that we should throw Santa out the window, but that we should put Santa in his place. And that place is in no way ahead of Jesus, next to Jesus, or one place behind Jesus. That place is miles away from Jesus.

Jesus is, a cliche as it might be, the reason for the season. Jesus is the God of the universe who stepped out of heaven, put on flesh, lived as a sinless man, died in the place of sinners, and defeated the grave by being raised from the dead. All who come to him are saved from death and hell and reconciled to God. How could we ever put someone in his place!?! May it never be. In all your Christmas celebrating, celebrate the incarnate Son of God who stepped into this world to save you.

Admittedly, the way that I think about this issue may be a bit more chastened than the way John Piper does. However, Piper offers thoughts that, in my opinion, bring needed correction to the whole issue of Santa and Christmas. Piper puts Santa in his place and elevates Jesus to the place that he deserves. Once again, I’m thankful to God to have Piper speaking to Christians around the world.

I commend his post to you for further consideration. ReThinkning Santa–by John Piper

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