What Do You Believe?
My family has a Christmas tradition that makes most people’s heads explode.
We don’t do Santa.
(I can hear the gasps from here.)
Don’t get me wrong, we still talk about Santa, watch movies and read books about Santa. Heck, we even go visit him. But my husband and I explain to our kids that Santa is a fun game people play at Christmas to show generosity and kindness.
There are lots of reasons we chose to do this (reasons I won’t go into on this post, but if anyone has questions, feel free to contact me at my link above.) But the truth is, my husband and I spent lots of long nights deliberating over this decision.
You’d be surprised how pressure-filled and difficult it was for us to grind our way down this path. We questioned ourselves. We wondered how our kids would respond. But in the end, it seemed to be working out really well.
Until something strange happened.
This year, my three-year-old thinks Santa is real. Even though we have told her the opposite, point-blank.
She knows that Santa is a game people play. She knows the guys in Santa suits are just men playing dress up. And she knows that Santa is a representation of a real man named St. Nicholas of Myra (because she picks a book about St. Nicholas every night at bedtime.)
So, it isn’t any wonder I got whiplash the first time she spotted “the real Santa” (ahem, a gentlemen with a white beard and rotund tummy who was not dressed up as Santa.)
Over and over now, she gawks at Santa-like men until they notice her and wish her a Merry Christmas. Then she flees to me, squealing with delight and clinging to my leg for dear life. Once the men pass by, she looks up at me, doe-eyed, and points a finger in his direction.
“It was him!” she whispers.
At least once a day, she talks about Santa. She loves the guy. And she really believes he will bring her the jet packs she asked for for Christmas. (According to her, they have size 3T at Target.)
This drastic turnaround of hers got me wondering: How can people believe something when they’ve been flat-out told that its opposite is true?
It’s like we’re hardwired to hope and believe.
Even as adults, we have a natural programming to believe. All of us, to some degree, believe in something. Be it a science-explains-all approach or aliens or Jesus Christ or the idea that humans are absolutely alone in the universe.
Whatever the case, the answer is we don’t have the answers, so we believe in something to fill in the blanks.
Personally, I choose to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who took on flesh, became man, and died at the hands of men for the salvation of humanity.
Sounds a little fantastical, no?
So what’s to say that my belief in Jesus is not some antiquated legend or holiday farce?
How do I know I’m not just a grown-up version of my naive daughter?
I mean, here I am staking my life on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. How do I know that this is not all in my head? How do I know that any of it is actually true?
Because ultimately we, as Christians, have a faith that is based on reason.
Will my daughter be able to prove that Santa sneaked into our house and left gifts under the tree? No.
Will I be able to prove that Jesus was the Son of God who was crucified, died, and was buried? And that on the third day he rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father? No.
But proof and evidence are two different things, and what I can do is evaluate Christian claims in other ways.
For one, I can look at historical documents that provide evidence of Jesus’s life and death. From there I can examine any evidence that He performed miracles or rose from the dead. If those stack up, I can start to scrutinize scripture to see if/how it fits with the other evidence. I can also take into account the tradition of my belief system spanning thousands of years and the writings of those who have already asked tough questions about Christianity. And, because they’re available, I can look at the writings of the earliest Church fathers who knew people who actually hung out with this historical Jesus guy.
At that point, you start to get a pretty thick stack of reasons that back up your beliefs.
And that’s totally different than saying, “I believe in Santa because I want jet packs.”
One involves reason, thorough examination, and evidence-based conclusions. The other is based on feelsy goodsies.
So don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. Don’t be afraid to investigate. Don’t be afraid to examine and scrutinize the Christian faith.
And definitely don’t be afraid to believe.