In my journey as a father one of my most memorable moments for me occurred while walking along a country road with my then 5-year-old son Jeremy during a father-son retreat. As we strolled he asked me if Santa Claus was “real.” I felt I had to tell him the truth as I knew he would soon find out eventually. When I told him that Santa Claus wasn’t “real” I can still remember those big crocodile tears falling down his face. I saw what I perceived to be his loss of innocence. But then I told him the real story of Christmas; about how God became a man in the coming of Jesus Christ as a baby in a manger. And that WAS real and much more of a miracle than Santa Claus. I prayed quietly, “Lord someday help him understand the truth of what I am saying,” knowing that for a time he had to grieve the loss of Santa Claus.
In my journey as a son and my observation of others who are sons and daughters, I have concluded that we project upon the Heavenly Father the picture that we have of our own father. It is like an old movie projector putting out-of-focus, blurry images of our own subjective experiences upon Him. If our dad was physically absent, emotionally detached, abusive or even overindulgent (Santa Claus-like)-- that is the picture we superimpose on the dark void of our imagination to create a picture of what the Heavenly Father must be like.
And then whatever happens in our lives seems only to confirm this distorted image of the Heavenly Father. For example, when we feel lonely, we are confirmed in our belief in the Heavenly Father’s absence; when we are misunderstood we strengthen our idea that God is detached; and when we suffer unfairly, then we either see a God of power who doesn’t care enough to intervene or a Heavenly Father who is loving, but who is powerless to help. And when good things happen to us, we figure that is because we have been “nice” (vs. “naughty”) and we are now just receiving the “gifts” we have earned from a Santa Claus-like God.
But the miracle of Christmas can change all this distortion for us, IF we choose to believe. The birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem 2000 years ago changed history. It changed forever the earth-to-heaven distorted picture of the heavenly Father that we naturally live by, to the historical, heaven-to-earth reality of Bethlehem. The heavenly Father projected a true representation of Himself onto that little manger in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. In so doing, He gave His only Son to the world, to take on human flesh and eventually to die a cruel death upon a Roman cross. He did this in order bring us into His eternal family as adopted sons and daughters.
Through Christ we are able to see the heavenly Father for who He really is. This is a Father we can trust fully because this is a Father that the Lord Jesus, who knew Him from eternity, trusted to the very end of His earthly journey when He cried out to Him as His “Abba” (“Daddy” or “Dear Father” a trusting and intimate term). Jesus said, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Once people ask Christ to come into their lives, in a sense the Heavenly Father’s heaven-to-earth projection system is internally downloaded within them and they begin to “see” Him for who He REALLY is. They begin to have a clear, in-focus image of the Father as they approach Him in prayer and experience Him in the pages of the Scriptures that they read. The Apostle Paul says it well, “You have received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry ‘Abba Father.’”(Romans 8:15) “For through Him we..have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:18) “In him and through faith in him we may approach God (the Father) with freedom and confidence.” (Ephesians 3:12)
Dad, your whole life you may have been looking at God the heavenly Father through your earthly father projector. If so, this has created an image that is fuzzy and unclear. And because of that, in your home you are passing down this distortion to your children. This Christmas, why not take a fresh look at the heavenly Father through the person of His wonderful Son who said, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) This year, don’t just glance at the Christmas story, but GAZE at the wonder of the God of the entire universe becoming a tiny baby in order for you to know Him as the heavenly Father you have always longed to know.
No, for sure, He is NOT Santa Claus. He is infinitely better, closer and more real than that fat, old guy from the North Pole ever could be! Merry CHRISTmas!