I’ve had a change of heart about Santa Claus.
As a young Christian, I didn’t care much for the idea. “If I ever have children, I’m not going to teach them about Santa,” I would say. “It’s a stupid pagan tradition that has nothing to do with Christmas. Kids should be learning about Jesus, not Santa.”
This was my opinion for many years. But all of that changed recently.
Those of you who have been following this blog know that the greatest challenge to my faith was the loss of my girlfriend Christina (who passed in 2014), and that my faith was reborn when she started appearing to me in spirit form in the fall of 2015.
My encounters with the spiritual Christina (as well as the spirits of my grandparents, Jesus, Mary, and many other saints) have challenged many assumptions I used to hold.
I had assumed that the dead could not communicate with the living. I had assumed that the doctrine of the Trinity was just fanciful metaphor. I had assumed that God didn’t really care that much about our happiness. I had assumed that I would not be able to know much about heaven until after I died.
Over the last year and a half, all of these assumptions have been shattered. I now know, from experience, that God loves us far more than we can imagine, and far beyond what we could ever deserve. I also know that there’s life beyond death, and that the spirit world is far more complex than I had thought.
But perhaps the most important thing I have learned in my recent spiritual journeys is the importance of magic.
When I say this, I don’t mean that Christians should practice witchcraft or divination. I don’t mean that we all have such “magical” powers as teleportation, levitation, or that we can read other people’s minds. I don’t mean that we should try to literally walk on water or raise the dead (though I am open to the possibilities).
What I mean is that we should approach life with the same sort of fascination and trust that a child would.
As Jesus has said, we must become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven. I think this sort of wonder is a big part of what He is talking about.
On many occasions, I have wondered what all my strange spiritual experiences really mean. Am I really communicating with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and various saints in heaven? Or is this all in my head? I have asked God this question many times, and received many different answers.
Perhaps the most profound answer I have received was one I got in December of 2015. Who is the spiritual Stina? I asked God on that day. Is she just in my head? Is it you (God) appearing to me in the form of Christina? Or is this really the spirit of Christina that I’m communicating with?
What would Christina have wanted you to believe? God asked me in response.
Well, she always had a childlike sense of wonder, I said. I suppose she would have wanted me to believe whatever made me the happiest, whatever brought the most joy to my life.
What would that be in this situation? asked God.
That’s easy, I said. It makes me happiest to believe that I really am talking to Christina and feeling her presence; but also that You are involved in this in some way.
Then believe that, God said.
But is it true? I asked. Is it what’s really happening here?
The truth is far more complicated than you can possibly understand right now, said God. Just believe what gives you the most joy, and more will be revealed when you are ready for it.
After this I felt a great sense of peace and joy, far beyond what I ever had before. And ever since that day, I have tried my best to retain a childlike trust in my experiences with God and the saints, though I still have my doubts at times. I have learned the importance of magic – that is, the importance of believing in things that can’t be proven.
You see, I can’t prove that my experiences with Christina, Jesus, or the saints are real. I can’t prove that I am receiving visions from the Holy Spirit. I can’t even prove that there’s a God! And I’m not sure that it would be a good thing if I could; for then there would be no need for faith. The magic would be gone.
The devil, of course, would much prefer that we remain cynical and doubtful. He would prefer that we only believe in things that can be empirically “proven.” He would prefer we live a cold, rationalistic existence, void of faith or emotion. Because as long as we stay in this frame of thinking, we are unable to experience the joy of the Lord – and therefore unable to access the power God has given us to change the world.
So maybe teaching children about Santa Claus isn’t such a bad thing. It encourages them to approach life with a sense of wonder, believing anything is possible. And even though they will learn, sooner or later, that there isn’t a literal Santa Claus, they will keep this sense of wonder as they get older. This will put them in a good place to experience the mystery of God.
And maybe, just maybe, Santa is real.
Do I mean to suggest there’s literally a man in a red suit that traverses the entire world in one night, giving presents to all the children? No.
But there was a real Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century priest who helped the poor by giving them anonymous gifts. And his spirit lives on, just as the spirit of Jesus does. In a very real sense, he is mystically present whenever we give to others.
Of course, no one can prove this, any more than we can “prove” that we love someone. At a certain point, we have to trust. We have to believe in something that can’t be seen.
To quote from a movie I saw several years ago, “Sometimes the things that may or may not be true, are the things we need to believe the most.”