I am thirty-five years old, and I still believe in Santa.
I remember well that dark day when my friends told me that Santa didn’t exist. I was devastated. I felt this heaviness in my gut, and the colors of Christmas seemed to fade. I was made to feel like I was a baby for believing in Santa, and so I quickly gave up the belief. I didn’t want to be the odd one out. I didn’t want to be a fool.
But in the privacy of my own mind I began to think it through. If Santa didn’t exist, where did all of those great gifts under the tree come from year after year? If Santa didn’t exist, how did my letters always disappear from the fireplace? Plus, I had been in Santa’s presence plenty of times! I had frequently bumped into him in the mall and on the streets of New York City, and I had pictures to prove it. One time Santa even showed up at my house on Christmas.
How irrational it would have been for me to conclude that Santa simply didn’t exist! To affirm that Santa was merely a legend that had evolved over many generations, or to accept that the multiple and multiply attested appearances of Santa were cases of me and everyone else hallucinating—only a willful neglect of the evidence could lead to such conclusions.
It turned out that my friends had not been very precise with their thinking or with their words. It wasn’t that Santa didn’t exist; it was that Santa wasn’t who I thought he was.
It turns out he is far greater than I had thought. He is indeed capable of providing gifts and picking up letters, and he is, as suspected, responsible for the disappearance of the mountain of cookies that we would leave out for him on Christmas Eve.
But, thankfully, he doesn’t live as far away as the North Pole. He isn’t someone whom I could only hope to catch a momentary glimpse of once a year. He isn’t someone who likes me only if I am not naughty but nice. The good news is that Santa is with me all year, and he loves and is there for me no matter what. Santa exists; it’s just that when he is fully revealed, he is also Mom and Dad.
Many of us can remember a time when someone told us God doesn’t exist, and perhaps they made us feel foolish for believing such a thing. Did we give up that belief because we had really thought it through, or simply because we didn’t want to be seen as a baby?
If God doesn’t exist, how did the universe begin? Why is it designed for life with such precision and intricacy? Why is its material content subject to moral laws? Why is it orderly and comprehensible? Why is it beautiful? Why is a baby being born a miracle that so clearly transcends the sum of its chemical reactions? Why do so many people consult the constellations above and the conscience within and know that there is something more? Why did hundreds of people claim to see and spend time with Jesus after he had been killed, even when it meant they might be killed? Why are millions of people in every corner of the globe so convinced that they daily spend time in his presence—that they speak to him, personally, and that he hears them and he answers them. In neglecting God, have we actually neglected the evidence?
What if it isn’t that God doesn’t exist? What if God just isn’t who we thought God was? What if it turns out that God is far greater?
Yes, God is powerful enough to create the universe, and to design it with order and precision. But God is not the distant God of the deists. God is not someone whom, at best, we can hope to catch a glimpse of. God is not someone whose love is conditional on our nice deeds outweighing our naughty ones. When fully revealed, God is indeed Creator and Designer, but—even better—God is our loving friend. For us, God was willing to be seen as a fool, and as a baby.
It’s not that Santa doesn’t exist; it’s just that Santa is Mom and Dad. And that’s good news! What if, likewise, the God that so many have stopped believing in exists after all? And what if God does not live high in the sky, to be seen only when we die? What if he dwelled among us, and lives within us? What if God is Abba—Dad?
This Christmas, would you consider joining me in believing in the real Santa, and would you consider believing in God too?
Vince Vitale is director of the Zacharias Institute at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
Published on December 15, 2016 in A Slice of Infinity. “Our gift and invitation to you, that you might further examine your beliefs, your culture, and the unique message of Jesus Christ.”
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