My wife and I have enjoyed watching a number of Christmas movies over the last few weeks. Now that we’ve come to Christmas Eve, our time is short if we want to squeeze in the last couple of “must see” films!
Last night, we watched the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street, which is one of my favorites. I was reflecting on the plight of Santa depicted there.
Time again, Santa refers to his necessary quest to get people to believe in him. He has to convince wounded, skeptical Mrs Walker to believe so that her daughter can believe.
My thoughts then turned to other Santa films. In 2003’s movie Elf, Santa has had to install a jet engine on his sleigh because there isn’t enough Christmas spirit (faith) in the world in order to make it fly. When a Central Park crowd sings a rousing version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, the “clausometer” (a measure of Christmas spirit) goes off the charts and Santa’s sleigh begins to fly without the rocket propulsion.
In 2002, The Santa Clause 2, finds Tim Allen as Santa Claus is desperate to convince a woman that Santa is real…so that he can get married and fulfill the requirement for there to be a Mrs Claus. Throughout the film, he struggles through the “de-Santification process” and the using up of his magic as his powers dissipate.
In all three of these cases, Santa Claus is in a somewhat desperate position to maintain his own existence. He’s basically running scared. Without the faith of the people of the world, he loses significance and power…which will lead to his own demise and the loss of joy for millions of children.
I’m thankful that the God we celebrate at this time of year is not in such a predicament. Jesus Christ did not come because people were starting to forget about God and He needed to do something really radical in order to awaken their faith. God did not act out of fear for His own existence when He sent His Son to earth. It wasn’t an act of self-preservation that motivated His activity.
Rather than trying to build up His faith ratings and maintaining His magical powers, God’s move in sending His Son was for our benefit. God wanted to be near us, and for us to be near to Him.
Santa visits earth every year, and yet still one movie plot after another emphasizes that people tend to forget him. He is desperate for people to believe, but often times seems satisfied if people believe in the idea of Santa Claus, rather than specifically in the person himself. He’s not looking to relate to people directly, but rather to keep the dream alive. In Miracle on 34th Street, Santa is willing to be locked in a psychiatric hospital in order to preserve the good name of Santa, even while separating himself from that identity.
But God isn’t satisfied with selling people on a disembodied belief. He wants relationship. When people don’t believe, He is saddened…but He’s not ontologically in jeopardy. God desires faith from the world because He desires relationship with the world.
On the other hand, Santa is desperate for faith from the world because he ceases to exist without it.
How will we use our faith this Christmas? To maintain the flight capability of an arctic jolly old elf? Or to engage in relationship with the true Father of Christmas?