The Christmas season is my favorite time of the year.Notice, I said the "Christmas season" and not the "holiday season."
Yes, I know there are more holidays than Christmas this time of year, but for me, it's all Christmas.
Christmas, Christmas, Christmas.
It's the time of year where we all slow down.
Family and friend gatherings are more frequent, and we find ourselves reflecting on the things that really matter.
The joy of life. The love of family. The celebration of faith.
I might have just lost you there. Faith might be a trigger word for some of you.
Some of you might be proud of your level of faith, and good for you.
Others, you might find yourself reading the word faith and it reminds you of your "lack of."
Everyone has different origins to their faith, or their lack of faith.
Some people, like me, come to faith as kids.
Some find faith as an adult.
Others may never put their faith in God and hold only to the finite things in life.
Things they can see, taste, smell. Things they can earn; success, money, power, a sense of love or affection from those around them.
Some claim to have no faith at all.
And maybe my question to readers who identify with anything from above would be, what do you really believe?
Do you believe in God? Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe in faith?
Or how about a more simple one. Do you believe in Santa?
Last week, I sat around a table with some friends, eating and drinking in the Christmas spirit as one often does this time of year; and a question went around the table, "How old were you when you stopped believing in Santa?"
It was pretty fun to hear friends explain stumbling in on their parents hiding presents underneath the tree in the middle of the night.
Some were told by a friend at school. Some immediately informed their younger siblings of the truth and ruined the magic forever. Each story had a similar thread.
They saw. They heard. They confessed.
These stories reminded me of a simple question from one of my favorite holiday classics “The Santa Clause”.
If you haven't seen it (which you should stop right now and go watch it), Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin, a man struggling to get his life together as a single father, businessman and divorcee, accidentally knocks the real Santa off his roof and is forced to become the new Santa in his place.
After he steps into the sleigh and assumes the role of Santa for the night, he saves Christmas and is brought back to the North Pole and given instructions that he is in fact the new Santa. Bernard, the head elf, explains his new responsibilities as Santa, and in Scott's frustration with this madness, he yells, “What if I choose not to believe it?” As if not believing in the responsibilities of Santa would somehow make them not exist.
This leads to what I think is one of the most important scenes in any Christmas movie.
Scott is led to Santa’s quarters by an elf named Judy, where he looks over the north pole on the balcony.
In his sight are reindeer, polar bears, and a little village where all the elves live. A place he never thought existed, right there before his eyes.
In a reflective tone, trying to muster up the faith to believe this all isn't a dream, Scott says, “I see it... but I don’t believe it.”
Judy replies, “Seeing isn’t believing. Believing IS seeing. Kids don’t have to see this place to know it exists. They just…know.”
Now, I'm not advocating that Santa is real and that his workshop exists at the North Pole. (but wouldn't that be cool?)
But I have always assumed way too much out of the writers of this scene and thought this conversation was intended to be as spiritual as it sounds.
There's something about the faith of a child.
Matthew and Luke record Jesus talking about "receiving the kingdom of God like a child." A child doesn't have to see the North Pole to believe that it could be real or that Santa exists.
You tell them, and they believe.
They hear your confession, and without seeing proof, they move from an unbeliever to writing to Santa every year, and going to the mall to see him and make sure he knows what they want for Christmas.
Think about it. EVERYONE you know has a picture of themselves with Santa from when they were a kid.
So I don't think it's too much of an assumption for me to think the Christmas season is a time of year where we ALL love to exercise our faith, even just a little bit.
Faith, in the dictionary is defined as a complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
And that might be the reason why that word is a painful one for you.
You may have placed your complete trust in someone or something, and then that trust was broken.
You were let down. What you believed was falsified and your confidence in them was ruined.
Your faith was shattered.A few scenes later in the movie, Charlie’s stepdad Neil is trying to convince Charlie there is no Santa Claus by asking him a series of questions, one of them being, "Have you ever seen reindeer fly?”
Charlie responds with, “Yes."
Neil says, "Really? Well I've never seen a reindeer fly."
Charlie says, "So? Have you ever seen a million dollars?”
Neil says, “No.”
Charlie replies, “Just because you haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
And here we see a new way to believe.
The bible defines faith in Hebrews 11:1 as "Being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
How the heck am I supposed to be SURE of what I'm HOPING for?
How CERTAIN can I be of something I can't SEE?
We know from Romans 10 that “faith comes by hearing the word of God,” and yet as the word of God was preached, some heard and believed, and others heard but turned away.
Just hearing the word of God doesn’t save you. Just like someone telling you Santa exists doesn't make you immediately believe, as it did when you were a child. It’s hearing it, then believing and confessing it. There’s a choice to be made.
But the question Scott Calvin had when faced with a choice he wasn't ready to make still remains...
What if I choose not to believe it?
I find it hard to believe in not believing in anything. Say that five times fast.
Wherever you find yourself on your faith journey, I'm convinced that it's a journey everyone is on, even those who have given up on faith.
Why? Because somewhere inside of every human is the desire for more.
The desire for meaning and purpose.
The imagination of incredible and beautiful works of art.
Since the beginning of time, man has toiled with the complexities of life, love and why.
Something drives all of our questions, and the desire to have those questions answered. Something in our nature points us to something greater than ourselves. Something unseen. It’s not concrete. It’s not mathematical. But faith seems to be vital and ingrained in our very existence.
Faith fuels your whole life. Faith gives you hope. Faith makes you want to be a better father. A better friend. A better employee. Faith is why you quit your job and started working on your passion project full time. Faith is why you went to school.
Faith is why you behave.
There's something more, if you could just believe...
What happens if I choose not to believe it?
Well in Scott’s case, thousands of kids would wake up Christmas morning without a present.
And for me…I have to wonder about all the people who would never hear the good news of the Gospel if I didn’t believe.
If I didn’t play my part.
If I didn’t take up the purpose and responsibility God handed to me.
If I didn't respond to the passion God placed inside of me.
If I didn't follow the path laid before me, the journey that leads me to the man God created me to be.
We all have a part to play in this world we are building. We all have souls that hang in the balance.
And you may not believe in Santa Claus. And you may not believe in Jesus. All I can tell you is what I have seen and what I have heard. I may have never seen His face, but I’ve seen His reflection. And I know there is a God who loves you because His image is all over you, And He wants the best for you. Himself.
This Christmas season, let me challenge those who do believe.
What kind of news are you spreading? One of love, joy and cheer, or are you too focused on the wrong thing?
For those of you who don’t yet believe…
Maybe it’s time we change our focus.
Instead of looking for proof within our limited view, why don’t we set our eyes a little higher? Why don't we open our ears a little wider? Why not start looking for God where you least expect Him.
Why not choose to believe…even for just a moment.
Then maybe as you open up your belief, you will then start to see.