the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
Years ago there was a story circulating about a Japanese Christmas display which featured a crucified Santa Claus. As it turned out no such display ever existed. The crucified Santa was just another urban myth. Until now. From the land of Bigfoot we now have photographic evidence that a crucified Santa display does exist - not in Japan but in the northwest
corner of the good ole USA.
According to news reports, Bremerton Washington resident Art Conrad came to the conclusion that the true meaning of Christmas had been lost so he decided to do something about it. Said Mr. Conrad: "Santa has been perverted from who he started out to be. Now he's the person being used by corporations to get us to buy more stuff." Moreover, Conrad sent out Christmas cards with a photo of the crucified Santa with the holiday greeting, "Santa died for your MasterCard."
Apparently Mr. Conrad believes that the unsullied Santa stands for a Christmas filled with good feelings: love, joy, peace, tolerance, inclusive ideology, equal rights, environmentalism, the right to choose and the warm fuzzies you feel when you have had a little too much holiday cheer and can't quite remember why you feel so syrupy sweet about everything. A spiritual (rather than material), holiday, if you will. Mr. Conrad is rightly upset over the "commercialization" of Christmas, but his desire to uphold an immaculate Santa as the true meaning of Christmas should cause every thinking Christian concern. As should the response of the "man on the street" to Mr. Conrad's protest. According to the Kitsap Sun newspaper, "Jake Tally walked by on Friday and chuckled, but didn't pretend to understand the message 'I don't really know what to think. I know it's about God but Santa has nothing to do with it.'" The bottom line is that most people don't really know what Christmas is about. They seem to recall that it is "about God" or something. But all they can remember is that there is a baby in there somewhere along with some shepherds, angels (always cute, feminine creatures - never the four-faced terrors of Ezekiel's vision), and some wise (persons), from the east - like New York or Boston maybe. Whether we want to admit it or not, Bible believing Christians in the USA are foreigners living in a foreign land. And the fault lies with us. For at least a generation much of the Church has proclaimed a god to the American public who is made in the image of Mr. Conrad's Santa; warm and fuzzy and saccharine sweet. Gone is the God who demands submission. Gone is the Jesus who commanded, "Take up your cross and follow me." Gone is the Church that looked to the Heavenly Father for affirmation. I know that I'm painting with a broad brush, but can anyone deny that our society is in freefall? Likewise, can anyone realistically deny that the modern focus on "any moment rapture personal piety" rather than "biblical worldview Christianity" has rendered the Church insignificant? It hasn't always been this way. Nor is it ordained that we must persist in this condition. We have the Bible and the guidance of the Holy Spirit; we need nothing else.
"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of
sinful desire" (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Certainly we ought to preach that God is love. Indeed, we love Jesus because He first loved us and came to this earth to be born in order to die in our stead. At the same time we cannot fail to preach His demand for absolute commitment. Mr. Conrad is confused no doubt; at least he has an excuse. The confusion within the Church, however, is without justification.