At this time of year there are always a few people who pass around the famous letter from Virginia, asking if there is a Santa Claus. I have always appreciated this well written letter in two ways. The first is that it is a kind and loving thing that Francis Pharcellus did when he responded to a little girl’s concerned letter–a letter that most adults likely dismissed as unimportant. The second thing I have always admired is that he did not lie, but instead made a very strong argument that Santa Claus does exist even if it is not in the way we see him portrayed in the media.
The letter reminds of another argument made for the existence of another man. Another figure that is notable at Christmas time. Jesus is often the subject of discussion and the doubts of his existence have much deeper implications. Paul argues on Mars Hill:
“Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed:
TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Being God’s offspring then, we shouldn’t think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination.
“Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.”
So it is important that we continue to celebrate Christmas and Christ’s birth as a declaration to the world that Christ is real and He dwells within us. If there is no Santa Claus there will be many disappointed children, but Francis was wrong about the source of “faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance,” the things that “can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond.” Those things belong to God. Christmas is the time to celebrate the chance to look into the “glory beyond,” but it is made possible through that glory being made flesh and dwelling among us as a child born to a poor carpenter’s family in a small town. A child who was the Creator and Savior of the world, fullness of God and helpless baby, Immanuel.