This afternoon I stopped by to see a Nepali couple, Suman and Prim, who are some of our new friends. Suman recently became a follower of Jesus and always has intriguing questions. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation.
Suman: Kevin, are you a protestant?
Me: Yes…Although, I really focus more on Jesus being my Lord and Savior.
(nods of approval)
Suman: Do, you know much about Catholicism? How is it different?
Me: A good bit. I’ve had several friends who were Catholic, and I’ve attended a Catholic worship service. Their worship services tend to have a lot of older rituals- ones you have not seen in church meetings before. The priests cannot marry (look of surprise from S & P). The priest also does not wear normal clothing like us or your pastor during the worship service. He usually wears a special religious robe and sometimes a funny hat.
Suman: Ohhhhh! I think I saw the priest at the mall… He was on the lower level, sitting on a large chair next to the fireplace. He was wearing a strange red outfit and funny red hat. Everything was decorated for Christmas and there was a long line of children waiting. They would then go sit in his lap and whisper something to him. (Obviously this was some type of strange religious ritual.)
Me: I’m a little embarrassed to explain what that really was. That guy wasn’t a priest. He’s actually a man pretending to be an imaginary person called Santa Clause. American parents tell their children that this imaginary fat man with a white beard and red outfit shows up on Christmas morning with gifts and then disappears before everyone wakes ups. But the parents actually buy the presents. The kids were waiting in line to tell this pretend Santa what toys they want on Christmas.
Suman’s nine year old sister (who has been silently playing on the computer): I thought Christmas was about the birth of Christ…
This obviously did not make sense to my new friends and neighbors, but maybe they had noticed something I often miss. Maybe our imaginary creation of Santa is functionally the priest of Christmas. He’s the keeper of the naughty list. He’s waiting with open arms for the children. He’s the giver of good gifts. He presides at the church of consumerism. What a strange Christmas we’ve created.