In traditional Mexican Christmas celebrations, at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, everyone stops in their tracks, embrace each other, and say “The God-Child has come.” At this moment, the baby Jesus is placed in the manger for the first time in their elaborate nativity scenes; nativity scenes that have been prominently displayed since the beginning of Advent. The air is filled with expectancy as the children anxiously await this moment. Each child hopes that they will be the one selected to bring God into the world, to “make his dwelling among us.”
In many US American homes on Christmas Eve, children anxiously await the arrival of Santa Claus. They can barely sleep from the excitement. They are told that a magical man will somehow miraculously appear in every home on earth, and if they have been good they will be given lots of presents. This man comes in a sleigh pulled by reindeer that can fly through the night. This scene is enacted not only in secular homes, but in many Christian ones as well.
For me, I much prefer the Mexican celebration to the US American one. The emphasis is on the true meaning of Christmas, the arrival of Emmanuel, “God with us.” In US American homes, the emphasis is too often on the self and “what I am going to get.” Perhaps that really reveals the true meaning of Christmas in our culture—consumerism and acquisitiveness.
I can understand secular post-Christian culture including Santa Claus in Christmas, but I have never been able to understand the need for Christians to do the same. Yes, I understand the wonder and the awe and the mystical and the magical that he may represent. But the wonder and the awe that I have seen in Mexican children’s eyes awaiting the arrival of the God-Child was every bit if not more magical than any fat bearded man who shook like a bowlful of jelly.
“The God-Child has come.” May we open our homes and homes for his indwelling.