I was in fifth or sixth grade. It was Sunday school and we were all in the main meeting room for group lesson time. The teacher that morning spoke of different things about Christmas that can have Christian symbolism. As a child many of his examples were pretty clever. He talked about Christmas wreaths and the ever popular candy canes that adults tell you is candy, but in reality is one giant peppermint that you can never really choke down as a child (More on that in another post).
His final example was the ever popular Santa Claus. He spoke of the origins of Santa Claus by talking about good old Saint Nick. He talked about all of the good he did for the poor. He told everything about this man’s story after solidifying in the minds of all of these children that this man he spoke of was in fact the one and only Santa Claus. I knew the story of Saint Nick. I knew how this story ended. So did my friend Jesse who sat next to me during this story.
Jesse leaned over to me and asked, “Do you believe in Santa Claus?” “No” I replied. Jesse responded as a young boy with clear understanding of the situation. “Neither do I, but I sure feel sorry for these kids.” We knew this teacher would not be foolish enough to tell the grueling end of Santa, but we saw where the ship was heading, and it was destined for the same fate as the Titanic.
The teacher explained how men did not like the things Nick/Santa was doing and threw him in jail. Then he just suddenly went on to another point, and left good old Santa in jail. It was too late. The children were to aware of the situation and this man was not about to get off that easy. One little curly haired boy raised his hand. The teacher stopped, looked at him, and let the beads of sweat fall down his forehead. I could have sworn the man was going to sweat blood. “Don’t do it!” I cried in my mind, but the words were already coming out of his mouth. “Yes, you had a question?” The young boy with curly hair and an innocent voice asked, “What happened to him after he was in jail?”
His was it. The end of childhoods. It would be as though a millions voices would cry out in agony, and would suddenly vanish from existence. “Well eventually he died. He was martyred for his beliefs. The outcry was grand and extreme. The titanic had hit the iceberg. “No!” cried some of the children. “Santa was murdered!” exclaimed another. Martyred certainly does sound a lot like murdered to a child. As the crowd finally hushed there was one child in the back whose despair of words haunt me to this day. “Santa Claus is dead?” Whatever remained of the lesson was over, and the children were dismissed to their individual classrooms. It was a day solidified in the memory of all children that day. It was the day Santa died. Many expected the headlines to be in the newspaper the next day.
It’s a silly story, but it is a true story. It begs a simple question. Why did this man make such a strong connection between Nick and Santa? Why did he essentially say that Santa was in jail? Could he not have seen the logical outcome? Perhaps some of you are now asking, what does this have anything to do with me?
We do this. We may not bring about the death of Santa for children, but we bring about death in ourselves when we go down a road that we know cannot lead to anywhere good. Choosing to sin rarely starts at the moment the opportunity to sin presents itself. It usually starts with choices that we make that allow that opportunity to present itself. We purposefully put ourselves in a situation that will lead to a destructive outcome. We go out of our way to sin.
David made this mistake when he had an affair with Bathsheba. The story starts out with saying that David as king was sitting on his roof during a time when he was supposed to be at war with his army. He chose to be in a place he was not supposed to be. Strangely enough he is on a rooftop. Why in the world is he on a rooftop? He is sitting up their checking out a married woman who is bathing naked. He chooses to keep staring. He makes another choice to get info on her. It was followed by another choice to invite her to his palace. This is followed by being in a situation he knew would lead to no good where he ends up sleeping with her and getting her pregnant. This leads to the plot to murder her husband to cover up all his mistakes.
I realize that is a very rapid and quick summary of the situation, but it makes my point. We choose to place ourselves in situations. The Santa story does not start with the mistake of saying Santa died. The first mistake was telling the story, and the details that were told. It leads to a dangerous situation. We do the same thing.
Its choices like getting on the computer when we know we are struggling with lust in that moment. You say you are trying to distract yourself, but it just makes things worse. It is the choice to be alone with that boyfriend or girlfriend after you already have trouble with knowing when to stop. It is that choice to be in the bar when you know you have trouble with drinking. It is the choice to be around those people who do drugs when you know you are susceptible to that. In the end the consequence is much worse than the death of Santa.
Sometimes we feel like we are constantly being tempted. Maybe we would not be tempted so much if we learned how to keep ourselves from being in situations where we are more susceptible to fall? Turn off the computer. Stay in groups with that significant other, or depending on the situation even call it off. Don’t go to the bars. Choose better friends. The decision to say no to temptation starts before the temptation ever hits. It starts with making choices that will lead you away from temptation rather than towards it. If more of us did that then we may live in a world were Santa died a little less often.