Leaving Behind Santa for the Divine

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I was recently reminded of the following quote from the English author, Karen Armstrong:

We often learn about God at about the same time as we are learning about Santa Claus; but our ideas about Santa Claus change, mature, and become more nuanced, whereas our ideas of God can remain at a rather infantile level.

What a striking thought for us to ponder as we enter the holiday season. Have our views of the Divine remained infantile? Are they no longer working for us? Or, have our views of the Divine grown deeper, evolved with our experiences, become more nuanced, and introduced us to a God that is bigger than the box in which we often put God?

Some theologians have described the spiritual path as one that includes times of construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction. And, I think this is the point Karen Armstrong is making. For many of us, a spiritual path was constructed for us, but as we have grown up we have found it no longer works.

Just as we deconstruct our view of Santa Claus after childhood (at least I’m assuming you’ve done this), it is easy for us to deconstruct (and even reject) an infantile view of the Divine, rather than reconstruct a faith that leads us to new levels of spiritual awareness. One of the early Saints described such a spiritual journey as moving from drinking only milk to feeding upon nutritious solid food.

I have experienced such a process in my own spiritual journey. In fact, I moved away from not only an infantile faith, but one that correlated the Divine as some sort of Heavenly Santa who would give me presents, or blessings, when I was good and give me coal when I was bad, or sinned. This type of God reflected the Santa Claus seen in Coca-Cola commercials; an old plump white guy with a beard who seems, at the same time, both jolly and somewhat creepy.

Yet, I crave a spiritual path and a God that is bigger, more complex, and more mysterious than a Heavenly Santa Claus. I want to embrace the Divine who is Love, Grace, Truth, Hope, Peace, Justice, and Joy. The One who is always present to me, as close as my very breath, who is before, through, and in all things, and is working to make everything new.

Maybe you do, too.

If so, my hope for all of us this holiday season is that we sense the Divine in fresh and new ways, that we encounter a spiritual path that embraces nuances, doubts, and ambiguities, and that we reconstruct a bold and mature faith that leads us to love, hope, joy, and peace.


Nathan Albert