November 14, 2011
It’s almost a religious appeal; the only clue that it is not is the fact that they’re buying full-page color ads in major newspapers, nationally (religious movements cannot write that kind of check). Expect to see it prominently positioned, in a periodical near you…
The scene is festive; there’s a mom and 6ish daughter, in winter attire, with baby-girl stretching to insert an envelope into a red mailbox, with the SANTA MAIL sign on the side. The star-studded headline, across the skyline backdrop: Believe.
Ever since Miracle on 34th Street became a two-hour staple in the holiday run-up, Macy’s has owned the Santa Claus brand. The first department store to feature in-house Santa Claus – seated on the Throne of the North Pole – they have been able to leverage the “what do you want Santa to bring you this Christmas?” query to produce cheer at the register. Today, you can find Kris Kringle at the 800 Macy’s stores spread from sea to shining sea…
One of the great mysteries of parenting is answering the recurrent question about the kids and Santa. Do you give them a front-row seat in the fantasy, early-on, to allow “visions of sugar plums” to delay their grasp of reality? If they buy it, when do you burst the bubble you blew with the disclosure of the truth? Do their beliefs in the Festive Fat Guy start big, and shrink… or, do they start small, and inflate? Is it something to manage… or, do you just go with the fanciful flow and accept the results?
The intellectual culture is far more comfortable with tolerance about Santa belief than they are about a dedication to the Divine. Belief in Santa Claus – especially at Christmas time – is far more reasonable than the leap of faith to celebrate belief in the One whose birthday creates the revenue.
Belief is a category, with varying degrees of intensity. Understanding – and, incorporating – belief will get a boost during the Thanksgiving-New Years span as people make their semi-annual pilgrimage to church.
Grown-ups have reached their conclusion about Santa; unless they’re the stars of Miracle, the Guy with the Sleigh is an apparition. It’s tougher for those adults to set their status as it regards the Baby in the Manger – who became the Lamb on the Cross. For them, “Do you believe in Santa Claus?” is easier to answer than, “Do you believe in Jesus?”
Some come to the Christmas Eve service under mild duress, but accepting the Lord Jesus as a theory (“a hypothesis assumed for the sake of argument or investigation”). They’re covering their bets… and playing-along with the family as they try to recreate a Norman Rockwell painting.
A stronger affirmation comes from the people who have reached the station of belief (“a state of mind in which trust or confidence is placed on some person or thing”). The debate that attends theory has, for the believer, passed. No longer exploring options, the believer has concluded the facts and no longer spends time considering the alternatives. Those folks are at the same Christmas Eve service, but they’re singing in the choir…
The people who are most dangerous are the ones whose belief has deepened to the point of conviction (“the state of being convinced”). Theories are wet cement; still pliable; beliefs are set, but often passive. Conviction is belief with legs: it agrees with the believer, but is driven to action.
Theorists and believers will mingle around punch bowls during the next few weeks, and they’ll hoist a few as a toast to the Baby Jesus. The Convicted Core will use the next month to engage people whose interest in Christmas just might open the door to a discovery of the Savior.
This is the annual window of opportunity. Will you use it… or lose it?