In the back of my parent's woody station wagon, tears tumbled down my face for the death of a man who didn't exist. I was ten when I found out that Santa Claus was the only lie acceptable for parents to tell their children. There was a hope and joy now lost in my life, one that didn't have anything to do with presents. I would continue to get my Transformers and Superman comic books; the socks would unfortunately keep coming too. There was a jolly fat man now gone from all the world who once brought excitement and the assurance of love to every child, not just me. I felt comforted to know that there was at least one man who loved us all, children and adults, whatever color, class or creed. I needed that man and now he was gone.
Surely, a correlation between Santa and Christ extends beyond the Christmas season.
Some people may feel this need for love stronger than others; some barely notice it. But it is comforting to know, even at the tender age of 10 that there is someone who loves us all, who, himself, exudes good and cares about the things we do and the way we all act. Even non-religious families tend to fill their children with hopes of stockings filled - and its more than just the loot to which they look forward: it's Santa himself.
Having a thing to long for, to aspire to and one in which we place our faith is important and good for children, even if that is only our own parent's dreams and expectations. It is one of the primary motivators to the human psyche. Rene Gerard, in his spectacular study on the mimetic patterns in human behavior, "I See Satan Fall Like Lightning" puts it very plainly. People, it seems, need something to desire in order to learn and grow and develop. In the Beginning, it was God. Then we fell away, noticed our own selves in terms of others (not God) and started mimicking those around us, Satan urging and exploiting this along the way (which is why "Do not covet" holds such an important position in the Decalogue in order that we not over do it.)
The truth is, we really aren't that creative to have our own desires were we left alone in a complete void. There would be nothing to aspire to; not even love. We need to have faith that there is indeed a real Love, a complete love out there for us to be able to love completely ourselves. And here lies my point:
Shouldn't that early faith in Santa be setting us up for the biggest leap of faith, that God in His Son, Y'eshua, love us incomparably more? We must have the faith that God can provide all that He promises, forgiveness, love, mercy, eternal fellowship, etc. if we are to grow past our own petty wishes for what lies under the Christmas Tree. Otherwise, it wouldn't be Santa we looked forward to, just more loot. Birthdays are fun, but Christmas more so. I long for heaven not because of heaven, but because of God.
And so, as I have gotten older and now have children of my own, I find that Santa does indeed exist. In a far more wonderful way than I ever could have imagined at ten. What is more, my faith in God is far more sustaining and revealing than I can ever immediately behold - His wonder, mystery and splendor are more than enough to last all eternity. The more I put my faith in Him, the more He reveals Himself, and I find God truly is sufficient.