I was even more surprised to learn, from Santa himself, that if you anagram the word S.a.n.t.a. you can come up with the word S.a.t.a.n., and some Christians are actually associating this jolly old holiday image with the devil. Personally, I had never associated giving gifts to little children or a hearty laugh with Satan the devil, but I was open to discussing it.
Like millions, I grew up singing how Santa Claus knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. He knows when you are bad or good, so be good for goodness sake, right?
But I also grew up believing these were the attributes of God Almighty. Bible verses like Ecclesiastes 12:14, says, “God will judge everything we do, even what is done in secret, whether good or bad.” — Contemporary English Version.
Hebrews 4:13 says of God, “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” — English Standard Version.
I do recall wondering even as a child if Santa Claus was as powerful as God, since both of them were said to know when people are being bad or good. How did this jolly old soul receive the power of being all-knowing?
Santa is also said to give many gifts. I was often told to be a good little boy, especially around Christmas, because Santa was watching and he would not leave me anything if I was bad.
As I got a little older, however, I discovered a different truth about gifts, gratitude and God. James 1:17 says “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father.” — New King James Version.
Ephesians 5:20 says, “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I had to ask myself, is Santa getting credit for doing things that Christians should be thanking God for? Even if I wanted to brush it off as my taking the matter too seriously, I couldn’t ignore what God said at Isaiah 42:8: “I am Jehovah, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise unto graven images.” — American Standard Version. Would that include Santa? You decide.
Many adults still believe the image of Santa Claus and God are not in the same category, for certain obvious reasons. But apparently, there really is a connection between Santa and pagan gods of old.
Edna Barth, in her book, “Holly, Reindeer, and Colored Lights, The Story of Christmas Symbols” wrote about the Swedish thunder god, Thor, “With his red suit and cap, and a bulging sack on his back, he looks much like the American Santa Claus.”
Although Thor experienced an extreme makeover in comics and in the movies, he is still considered a god who carries around a magical hammer — the trademark tool of his American counterpart, Santa.
In the chapter, “Santa Claus and his Ancestors,” Barth says, “Thousands of years before Christ, the Scandinavian god Odin rode through the world at midwinter on this eight-footed horse, Sleipnir, bringing reward and punishment.
“His son, Thor, god of farming, thunder and war made his home in the far north. At the same season, the gentle German goddess Hertha descended with her gifts of good fortune and health. The Christian religion brought an end of such pagan gods, in form at least. Later, as St. Nicholas and Father Christmas, they reappeared in spirit.”
If this is true, is it totally absurd that comparisons are drawn to a figure who has the ability to take away glory from God at a time when many people are trying to bring glory to Christ? Who, especially, would love to dishonor God in such a way?
In fact, The Encyclopedia Americana states, “Most of the customs now associated with Christmas were not originally Christmas customs but rather were pre-Christian and non-Christian customs taken up by the Christian church.
“Saturnalia, a Roman feast celebrated in mid-December, provided the model for many of the merry-making customs of Christmas. From this celebration, for example, were derived the elaborate feasting, the giving of gifts and the burning of candles.”
What if everything linked to these pagan practices, now associated with the birth of Christ, is just as much an anagram in spirit as the word S.a.n.t.a. might be for the word S.a.t.a.n.? It’s something to think about. Why?
Because Jesus said at John 4:23, “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”
I'm sure God has a sense of humor, but He has been known to be moved to jealousy due to similar images in the past, according to Psalm 78:58.
Knowing the truth can set us free. It gives us choices about pleasing God and where to draw the line. Happily, only God can judge us in our worship to Him.
After all, who else can really know when we are bad or good to reward us for our faith in Him?