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LIFE ISSUES

She was middle-aged (that would be my guess) as she stood in front of a vast array of Christmas cards trying to decide which ones would best suit her network of family and friends. Selecting a card that depicted the Christ Child she was heard to say, "Good grief! Now they're even trying to get religion into Christmas!" 

I suppose she is representative of her generation. The kind of ignorance that her observation exposed is even more widespread now than when she first uttered those words (that also would be my guess).

My question is this: "Who plays the lead role in the Christmas pageant?" It really comes down to two key characters. Santa Claus or Jesus Christ.

No, I'm not being irreligious. As I look around my community it seems to me that there are just two iconic characters in this drama that takes centre stage each year at this time. Take time to look at those Christmas cards. Look at the display in the shop windows. Listen to the music coming from the sound system in the shopping mall. Whose is the knee where the kids sit to verbalise their wish list for Christmas?

[It is probably too radical to suggest that the stores that provide time, space and energy for Santa Claus might consider a nativity scene where children could be encouraged to bring their gifts for distribution to those who will have nothing this Christmas].

I attended a Community Christmas Celebration recently and apart from two carols there was no mention of the "birthday boy" (as a friend expressed it). The reason for the season was hardly recognised. Why is that?

Santa Claus cultivates a paradigm or mindset of getting. Think about the questions that our children will be asked (again) this Christmas.  "What do you want to get from Santa? "What did you get from Santa?"  No matter where we turn, the Santa emphasis is all about getting. No, I'm not an old kill-joy. I don't think that Santa should be found guilty of spreading selfishness and summarily executed! However, I think we need to recognise the persuasive power of the 'Santa' paradigm and find ways to constructively neutralise and counter it.

On the reverse side of the equation is the other Christmas celebrity, Jesus Christ; always depicted as a baby (rightly so) and lying in an animal feed trough surrounded by animals and a few shepherds.

Jesus Christ cultivates a paradigm or mindset of giving. His coming into our world is because "God so loved the world that He gave...." (John 3/16). This baby grew up through childhood and adolescence to manhood and He taught that, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' (Acts 20:35).

While some would want to argue with me on the basis that the Santa motif does have a component of giving in it (i.e. Santa is a good role model because he gives to others), I am unconvinced. There is something about human nature that has a bias towards being self-centred and 'Santa' could readily become the patron saint of that reality. Maybe I'm reaching too far by suggesting that the motto of the Santa paradigm might be, 'It is more blessed to receive than to give'? Then again, maybe not.

I think that this confronts us with a choice. The choice has to do with lifestyle philosophy, values and directions. We can go with the Santa emphasis. Or we can go with Jesus in the opposite direction.

Who has the lead role in your life and mine?

I don't want to spoil your Christmas or mine by introducing a negative focus. However, I believe the comparison I have raised between Santa and Jesus is valid and, if you make the right choice, it can very positively enrich your Christmas celebration as well as set a new course for a selfless life of giving.

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