Having Faith in the Santa ClausE
“Seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing.” Or so goes the quote from little elf Judy. For those familiar with The Santa Clause, it is another heartwarming holiday movie about believing in Santa. Tim Allen has struggled with body changes as he became the new Santa Claus. Those around him do not believe his story about elves, the North Pole, or Santa Claus. Kids do not have trouble believing in Santa, unlike adults. It is here that little elf Judy provides deep insights into faith. She continues to remark that kids do not need to be told that elves make their toys for them, they just know. And that is enough.
While we know that Santa Claus is not real, this particular scene in an otherwise humorous account of Santa reveals deep truths about faith and its role in our lives. Especially when “post-truth” is Oxford’s 2016 word of the year. Many struggle to believe in a God they cannot see, others mock those who live their lives for this God. How can you believe in what you do not see?
The issue of faith is not just limited to our time. In Jesus’ day many could not fathom that the miracle working man in front of them was God. Even Thomas, an eyewitness to Jesus’ life, could not believe it was Him after the resurrection. Hebrews 11 defines faith as the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
We are certainly not comparing belief in Jesus to a child’s faith in Santa. However, faith in Jesus is not a blind faith. Consider:
- We have more historical accounts for Jesus than any other ancient figure. His life has been corroborated by documents outside of Scripture. Jesus did exist, die, resurrect, and ascend to Heaven.
- The Bible has withstood the test of time. Events, places, and peoples mentioned in the Bible have turned up in archaeological artifacts.
- Prophecy reveals the “outrageous claims” of the Bible have occurred just as expected. Such outcomes increase our trust to believe in the Bible.
- The Bible is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). It is not a book of fairytales. It contains stories of old that point to the Savior, illuminating the plan of salvation.
This is what the Apostle John had in mind as he wrote what many consider his last book: the Gospel of John. Being the only disciple to survive torture at the hands of man, he was left to die a natural death on the island of Patmos. Having seen the end of Earth’s history, and recording this in Revelation, he wrote the book of John. Scholars estimate that John wrote this book about 30-40 years after Jesus ascended to heaven. In other words, he wrote the Gospel to a generation that did not personally know Jesus as he did. He describes the purpose of his book in John 20:30-31:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
See, John knew that his audience would struggle to believe in Jesus and His divinity. This is why a large portion of his gospel does not include elements found in Matthew, Mark, or Luke. This is why he includes the story of Thomas doubting Jesus, and the lesson Jesus mentioned afterwards: Blessed are they that do not see, and do believe.
The struggle of belief in Jesus is not new to our secular generation. The book of John is for us as much as it was for the generation after Christ. This Christmas season, as you recount the story of the birth of Jesus, you may hold some small doubt in the back of your head that this is not true. That is okay. We question things that we have heard all our lives, and unless we can test it we have to take someone’s word for it.
However, remember that having faith in Jesus is not a blind faith. Faith in Jesus is grounded in historical and archaeological evidence. We may not understand everything there is to know about God, but it is enough for us to know how much He loves us. He has revealed this to us through the gift of His Son, the gift of the Word of God, and the gift of eyewitness accounts that acknowledge our doubts. In this case we do not have to see to believe.
Believing is seeing.