Secular Direction:

There is a frequently told story at Christmas time about Santa.

There was a time when I believed in Santa Claus. All that I had to do as a child was 'wake-up' and the toys and other gifts were there under the tree. Fun and having big meal with my family!

Then a time came when I did not believe in Santa. One Christmas I learned the truth, Santa was my 'parents'-ugh! They kept signing some gifts from Santa and I did not say anything for fear of losing the gifts. I guessed that I was now grown up.

Later I found that I became Santa Claus. When my children were born, I got them gifts and signed them from Santa. I did not wear the red costume, but I knew I was Santa to them and my friends.

Finally as time went on, I began to look like Santa. (Ho-Ho-Ho!) Time brings other gifts (some Santa time is), more weight, whiter hair and hopefully a better disposition. Ho-Ho-Ho! I have to be more careful how I control my 'bowl full of jelly'.

If one searches the internet it appears that there were some historical roots in Santa Claus. It did not take off in America until the advent of the poem, "T'was the night before Christmas" in the early 1800's. Now Santa is one of the biggest retail marketers. He fuels secular humanism and economic growth.

How does this compare with Jesus?

There is a process that parallels that of Santa. It is a maturing process.

Spiritual Direction:

At some early point in my life there was a time when I believed in Christ. Jesus says, "He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" (Matthew 18:2-4, NIV)

In my early years, my understanding of God came from my family without any personal inner structure. I innocently believed without question. I took for granted it must be so. There were things and rules that my pastor and Sunday teachers told me that I accepted. They had expectations and I did my best to live up to them. In the children's sermon one morning, when I said that I believed in Christ little did I know that the Lord will continue to hold on to me no matter what I did.

Later there came a time when I did not believe in Christ. "On hearing it, many of his disciples said, 'This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?' Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, 'Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.' From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." (John 6:60-66, NIV)

There came a time when I drifted away and could not determine whether the scripture was true or not. Others seemed more convinced than I did that their way was the right and better way. It was a period where I had become more self-centered and my needs than anyone else's. When I done what I was previously told was right, there was no reward in it. It all seemed empty and hollow. The scriptures were not always clear and confusing. Might as well chase the American dream and go for 'things'!

Now is a time that I have started to look like Christ. "Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed." (Romans 8:14-19, NIV) "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-" (Ephesians 1:4-5, NIV)

After many years of pursuing the search for wealth, success and fame, I discovered that it too was sham and devoid of any value. Much promised and no delivery. What could possibly give meaning and purpose to my life? I was ready, if I could find it. The worldview and Christian worldview are opposites which is most contrasted at Christmas time. For years I labored over the "True Meaning of Christmas" and one night by the inspiration of God's Spirit I heard Him say, "If is not in your heart, it does not exist". Of course, it is the battle between the externals and the internals; what I can see and what I can not. This experience provided the motivation to pursue the Word of God with greater vigor and intent.

There will be a time when I look like Christ "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure." (1 John 3:1-3, NIV) "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12, NIV)

I now accept the authority of Christ in my life. I know that a life of service done in love is being obedient to Him. Material things while they now have some necessity, while I am alive, have no value in the Eternal Life promised by Christ. Surrendering whatever I have that I thought previously had value and casting those things at the foot of the cross enables me to say as Paul did, "It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me!" (Galatians 2:20, NIV)

By Dr. William H. Hill

Dr. William H. Hill is an ordained clergyman. He now works with people in furthering and deepening their relation with God through retreats and spiritual direction and counseling. He has been facilitating groups and individuals for over 30 years in growth and development. Previously he served the corporate world in building relationships and providing leadership. Dr. Hill may be reached at 845.247.3642 or emailed at Dr.WilliamHill@att.net