We’ve all seen those photos of a screaming child sitting on Santa’s lap. In fact, I have one of them.
My daughter was about five years old – and, every Christmas, she had steadfastly refused to get her picture taken with Santa. While she would read Christmas stories about him, write him letters, and even set out cookies by the fireplace, she was terrified by the actual living breathing guy in the red velvet suit. One year, thinking that we were being clever, my husband and I took her to Chicago’s Christkindlmarket – a traditional German festival with small wooden huts and holiday treats for sale.
My husband I learned that one of the huts contained a Santa. As we strolled through the village, we noticed that there was no one in line. Casually, we entered the booth – and my daughter came face to face with Santa. I plopped her on his lap – in what probably was a cruel motherly move – and let the photographer snap the now treasured photo of my cute little girl screaming her head off.
My daughter, now 16, has still not quite forgiven me.
You see, she loved the idea of Santa, she just did not want to meet him up close.
I was thinking about that this frosty December morning, and realizing that this is how many of my friends view God. They like the idea of God, but they are terrified by any kind of personal obligation, any type of one-on-one interaction with the Almighty.
It is true, that an interaction with God can be intimidating, awe-inspiring, and life changing. Look at Moses, who came back from seeing God at the top of a mountain. Scripture says “he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord” (Exodus 34:29) When the Israelites saw Moses, they were afraid to come near him.
Or Saul, struck blind on the road to Damascus. He was continuing his self-appointed mission in life – persecuting Christians – when he was physically struck by God’s presence. “Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him…and he fell to the ground.” Scripture says that for “three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything” (Acts 9:8,9) From that day on, he was changed. Once a person who hated Christ followers, he was now himself a follower of Jesus Christ and a passionate proclaimer of the gospel.
Perhaps my friends are right to worry. What if they truly acknowledged God and entered His presence? Would their lives ever be the same?
A 1990s alternative rock song, titled “What if God Was One of Us?” by Joan Osborne asks the question: “If God had a face, what would it look like? And would you want to see if seeing meant that you would have to believe in things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints and all the prophets?”
Osborne ponders the reality of God – our inability our unwillingness to face that big, awesome, life-changing question, to step into His presence and to let our lives be forever changed.
If you are someone who likes the idea of God, but who has never allowed yourself to know Him in a personal way – I challenge you this Christmas season. As we approach this holy time of the year, open your heart to an encounter with the Almighty. It is both terrifying and life-changing, but I promise that you will never be the same.