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Some say he’s a real magical being who lives in the North Pole, while for others, he’s merely a symbol of consumerism – a marketing ploy that encourages spending and keeping up with the latest material gifts. Still, for others, he verges on being an unholy distraction – drawing our attention away from the profound significance and celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Whatever it looks like, without a symbolic view, we’re left with just partial and often unhelpful truths of Santa. Learning to see symbolically allows us to view him as the embodiment of generosity, joy, and hope.

To be fair, perhaps little serious thought is given to Santa Claus outside of conversations with our young kids. But it’s a worthy consideration both here and beyond. There’s a reason this story gets passed down from one generation to the next. And it’s too simplistic to conclude that it’s only because parents don’t want to upset their kids, marketers don’t want to lose their moneymaker, or because the people of God have simply watered down their faith.

All too often, we get hung up debating our modern literal interpretations of Santa, and we miss the deeper symbolic meaning present. But there’s something deep in the human soul that resonates with his image. In short, at his core, he inspires generosity in giving to others in need, joy in bringing delight and merriment to life, and hope by letting us believe in Christmas magic and the impossible when it seems all hope is gone.

While many will take advantage of and misuse these qualities, they reflect enduring aspects in God’s larger story all the same. As such, we do well to honor these truths however they might be personified. This is what we do with Superman, Batman, and other iconic superheroes. They’re all real in the sense of representing what is true, good, and beautiful. And the same is true for Santa Claus.

In the end, don’t get lost in the endless debates limited by literal interpretations. Allow Santa Claus to be a real image of generosity, joy, and hope that we all should aspire to, as this too is ultimately a reflection of God’s love.

Dr. Corey Carlisle

Licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist - providing Christian counseling and soul care to individuals and couples, with a special emphasis on developing the masculine soul. Suwanee, GA 30024

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