We’re officially in the Christmas season. You can see it. You can hear it. The evidence is all around us. Front porches and shrubs adorned with colorful lights. Inflatable Santa’s and Frosty’s staked to the ground, sometimes found side by side with plastic shepherds circling a baby in a manger. The local radio station plays “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” by Frank Sinatra followed by Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”. Even with canceled parades and Christmas tree lightings, the Christmas season is still here.
Every year is the same – a mixed bag of messages – telling very different stories of the meaning of Christmas. There’s the festive Christian magnification of a baby in a manger (incarnation) versus the secular celebration of a mythical Gift-giver in a red suit. To the world’s eyes – and many of our children – those stories are of equal weight. Both seem innocent and fabled. Many people, including Christians, try to balance the baby Jesus with Santa Claus with decorations in their homes. Very often, fond childhood memories are triggered for parents who now discern truth from myth. And yet, it can be very confusing for the undiscerning, especially for children.
I think one of ways we can overcome the confusion is to make certain that we do not celebrate the Christmas story isolated from God’s overall redemptive plan. The incarnation (God becoming flesh) is a key element of the story, but it was never meant to be a story by itself. The story of redemption has many chapters to it, however there is a singular figure and one central message. The central message is that Jesus reigns! He reigns over the Christmas season. He reigns over every season. He is Lord over all!
Let’s look for a moment at start of the Christmas message as it unfolds in Luke 1. In the middle of the chapter, the angel Gabriel comes to a virgin named Mary (Luke 1:26-28). Mary is frightened. She doesn’t know what to make of this “visitor”. Gabriel tells Mary he’s come to announce that she will bear a child, where we read the famous verse.
Luke 1:31 – 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
And from that point, we know the rest of the story, right? The census by Augustus. Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. No room for them in the Inn when Mary goes into labor. She gives birth to baby Jesus and places him in a manger. Shepherds are witness to the birth of Christ. Everyone knows the story of the birth of the baby Jesus.
But here’s the thing… there’s a lot more to what the angel promised Mary. Much, much more. After announcing the birth of Jesus, Gabriel immediately promises the following.
Luke 1:32-33 – 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
From the very beginning of the Christmas story, Mary was told who the Baby Jesus really was and what he would mean for the world. He was the Son of the Most High God who was destined from the very beginning to reign as King over all creation.
In fact, the entire Word of God lays out who Jesus was and what He is destined to be. From the very beginning in Gen 3, God said that Jesus would reign over Satan and evil (Gen 3:15). All through the Old Testament, we see evidence of the coming Christ and declarations of his reign (Isaiah 9:6-7, 11:1-9, Daniel 7:13-14, Jeremiah 23:5-6). We see the same message in the New Testament (John 18:36, Ephesians 1:20-21, 1 Timothy 6:13-15, Revelation 1:5-6, 17:14).
The references I’ve listed are just a sampling of all that’s declared about Jesus. Over and over, from beginning to end, the Bible tells that Jesus is King over all creation. It’s not that he will be king. He is King!
So, my point is this, this baby Jesus – the one who so many in December want to share equal emphasis with Santa Claus – is not just a story or a fable or a myth. This Jesus IS the Great I AM! He IS the King of the Universe. He IS seated and the right hand of the Most High God and He reigns! He rules with perfect righteousness and justice, and He does not share the throne with anything earthly, mythical, or unredeemable. Therefore, there should be no conflict in a Christian’s heart between the Lord Jesus Christ and a mythical Gift-giver in a red suit. They are not on the same level, not even close. Mostly because one is real and the other is not. Regardless of how many times it’s sung, the truth is Santa Claus is not coming to town, but one day very soon, Jesus will. He promised it (John 14:3).
Don’t allow yourself to be confused. Don’t teach your kids something that isn’t real, even if it brings back pleasant memories for yourself. Do better. Let your celebrations year-round be shaped by the One who is worthy of your storytelling. Show your kids the wonder and awe of how the Christmas story fits into their redemption. Tell them the story of redemption from beginning to end (Genesis to Revelation). Jesus Reigns! He reigns over the Christmas season! He reigns over every season! He is Lord over all!