It’s not that I’m coming out of the closet as a Justin Bieber fan, but I thought his rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” perfectly captures the American vision for Christmas. Santa Claus, by the way, didn’t really make his appearance until early in the twentieth century and only then as a marketing ploy by several American companies, especially Coca-Cola.
The whole notion of a fat guy in a red suit giving stuff to good boys and girls continues to evolve in peculiarly American ways, with our friend Justin taking it to an entirely new level. Here is how he interprets Christmas:
So as I continue to search for meaningful ways to celebrate what’s really the core of the Christian faith—the Incarnation of God into humanity—I can’t move in the direction I see some of my friends in ministry. Like the pastor I know who led his church into a Christmas program that included Santa on a surfboard. I just can’t go there. Not that I’m adverse to fun and looking for effective ways of connecting the gospel with the culture. But Santa on a surfboard? In a Christmas musical? In a church? Really?
Instead, I’m wondering if smaller, simpler and quieter shouldn’t be our watchwords when it comes to genuinely worshipping at Christmas. Here’s a Christmas carol unlike anything I’ve seen before but that places the deepest biblical truths within just the right framework of worship and adoration:
Bigger, louder and more secular isn’t the way to connect with Christmas. And I’m learning more and more that the unbelieving community is more put off by our misguided attempts in the church to secularize the Christmas season than we realize. They often think we look like fools. What they’re looking for, yearning for in ways that they can’t always put into words, is the real thing. And that’s not Coke. It’s not Santa Claus. It’s not Justin Beiber. It’s not Hollywood. Not rowdy, commercial or secular. Instead, the human spirit longs for peace, authenticity and worship. Just like Mary and Joseph in the flickering lamplight of a stable, surrounded by the night sounds of sheep and cattle and the echoes of a heavenly choir they never expected to hear, astonished at the birth of their firstborn child.