My Humble Defence of the Reasonable Belief in an Invisible God Born in A Barn 2000 Years Ago to an Unmarried Teenage Girl
Santa is Stupid.
I don’t mean the character is stupid. I love Santa. When I see him I give him a hug and embrace the feeling of his belly ensconcing my own. I love Santa movies, I love the idea of a generous, benevolent, omnipresent being pouring down presents upon me.
However, surely we can agree believing in Santa is silly? Without any encouragement my three-year-old has figured out the impossibility of his existence, and is living now in the freedom of an anti-Santa-nic reality.
Huh? Huh? Huh?
Every premise of the Santa story is ridiculous, and any detective can quickly gather the facts and conclude the whole thing is a hoax. Worse than that, the idea of Santa attempts to manipulate children’s behaviour while teaching them Christmas is not about God’s grace given to undeserving people, but rather about presents rewarded to worthy recipients through merit.
As a society, we are deceiving our youngest, most vulnerable members to believe a lie. And it is a ridiculous lie.
In case you need more persuasion. Santa doesn’t exist because:
He has too many houses to visit in a single night.
Reindeer don’t fly.
You can’t fit all the world’s presents in a single sleigh.
If Santa lives in the North Pole, why does he spend so much time in every shopping mall in December just sitting!
Elves don’t exist. And if they do, Santa’s empire is built on the backs of vulnerable slaves.
No one has ever seen Santa (in the sky or at houses) on Christmas Eve.
In short: Santa is stupid. Case closed.
Shoe on other foot
“But,” perhaps you are thinking, “Don’t you deceive children in the exact same way when you force your beliefs on them, teaching about Jesus being God? Isn’t believing in Jesus just as stupid as believing in Santa? Perhaps encouraging belief in the Christian God is far more damaging and dangerous than a few tall tales about a kind, fat man giving present to kids?”
I grant you, at first blush the Christian faith promotes a story that is perhaps even more ridiculous than the tall-tales of Santa Claus.
The Bible centres on a story of a boy born in a barn, homeless and helpless, to an unmarried teenage virgin. He is born in the middle of nowhere, and no one notices. And this boy, we are told, is Emmanuel, God with us. God incarnate: the unseeable, immeasurable God of the Universe veiled in flesh. After his arrival, a few shepherds get the inside scoop from a heralding host of angels, and some Persian superstitious astronomers drop in eventually too. Jesus grows up in total obscurity, with only one story of his childhood surviving. But then suddenly he bursts on the scene thirty years later, preaching like a superstar, embarrassing religious leaders with his knowledge, healing the sick, raising the dead, walking on water, calming storms. A carpenter’s kid becoming the model Rabbi, humanitarian, miracle-worker and believer.
And then, as Jesus’ popularity is at its peaking point, just about the whole nation of God’s People turns on him, condemns him to die without any real cause, rushes a mock trial, and through a complete miscarriage of justice Jesus is rapidly condemned and crucified.
Ridiculous claim #1 is that God comes to Earth as a baby.
Ridiculous claim #2 is that God is killed. The All-might, ever-lasting Lord of the Heavenly Hosts submits to death at human hands.
And then comes claim #3: the third day after his death, his grave is found empty. And suddenly his followers have a series of encounters with Jesus resurrected – alive again. After 40 days Jesus flies up to Heaven, and hasn’t been seen on Earth since.
…Flying reindeer don’t seem so silly now!
My pastor growing up said, "One of the reasons you knew the Bible was true is because if someone were making up a religion they wanted others to believe, you would never make-up a story so far-fetched, so confounding as the Christian message." (Although perhaps Ron L. Hubbard would disagree!).
So why do I believe that Jesus is alive and Santa is stupid? What possible evidence do I have to support so ridiculous a story as the First Christmas?
“The Defence calls to the Stand...”
In legal cases, you prove an event happened by looking at evidence and listening to eye-witness testimony.
If we were judging the existence of Santa, for example, we would reflect on the reality of no known eye-witnesses and no evidence to support his existence. It would be a very short trial, with no question what the verdict would be. Santa doesn’t exist. (Sounds like a really good premise for a movie...)
Jesus’ existence is a little more complex. We don’t have evidence in the sense of fingerprints or security camera footage, but we do have extensive eyewitness accounts from people on the ground who knew Jesus – who saw him, touched him, heard him, were healed by him and who followed him.
We have biographies written of him. Four verifiable ones (there are other pseudo-biographies written hundreds of years after Jesus, so those can be dismissed as evidence pretty easily). The four biographies that are contemporary of Jesus are written by four men: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Two were disciples who followed Jesus during his earthly ministry (Matthew and John), the other two were not, depending on testimony of eye-witnesses to write their biographies. As you study these documents, what becomes obvious is that they complement one another with minimal incongruities, and also the profound sense that the four men writing believed wholly that what they were writing was true.
History suggests all four were arrested or killed for their belief in Jesus. Murdered for spreading the story of God coming to Earth. And yet, these men would not stop telling the story, nor would those who heard it.
We have secular writings that verify Jesus’ existence too. A Roman Governor writes to the Emperor asking for advice on what to do with these pesky Christians in the second century. Josephus, a contemporary Jewish historian, assumes his reader knows that Jesus lived.
From the primary evidence available to us, it must be concluded that there was a man, named Jesus, from a tiny, nothing town called Nazareth, who led what has grown to become the largest global movement in World history.
And the reason Jesus’ story is so captivating is because of how it ends. Jesus is killed, in every account we have, but three days later he rises from death. His followers, who all fled when he was arrested and murdered, suddenly came out of hiding after Jesus’ death, now boldly proclaiming across the Roman Empire that Jesus is Risen and is Lord, with no concern for their personal well-being or survival. Something happened to these people to embolden them to take this course. They weren’t the type of people who history remembers typically – uneducated fishermen and social outsiders. And yet, they carried a message that has spread like wildfire wherever it has been re-told.
Jesus is alive.
I hope we can all agree that believing in Santa is stupid. This Christmas, ask yourself what you think about Jesus? Why do you believe what you believe? I think this is the single question that has eternal consequences.