"The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Romans 6:23

The memory of a discussion my mother and I had when I was 7 seems like yesterday. Margie says I can't remember what happened five minutes ago, so she will probably consider that statement an exaggeration.

My mother was standing at the ironing board. That was back in the day when people ironed. She even ironed sheets, pillowcases and handkerchiefs.

I said to her, "Mother, I've figured out, there really isn't a Santa Claus, because he could never visit all the homes in the world in one night." She did not try to hide the "big secret" from me any longer. She acknowledged my statement in agreement. "Well," she said, "since you've determined that, you're right."

Today is 65 years later and I've discovered there really is a Santa Claus. He may not be "that jolly old elf with eight tiny reindeer," but he is very real.

It is certain, Christmas is shrouded in both fact and symbolism. An example of factual information is found in Bethlehem. In the Church of the Nativity, to the left, as one walks toward the altar, is a small opening in the wall. That doorway opens onto steps descending into a cave. That cave is the place where our Jesus was born. At many places in Israel one is told, "This is where we 'think' a particular Bible story happened." In the case of Jesus's birth, we are told, "We know this is the exact place of His birth."

We think of a stable as being a barn-like structure. Bethlehem is in a mountainous region and far enough north to become cold in winter and hot in summer. Caves were used in Bible times to keep livestock because of the temperature consistencies. Jesus was actually born in what we would call a cave.

We recognize full well, Christmas is a recognition and celebration of the birth of our Savior. His exact birthday is not known. The calendar we use wasn't established until 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII introduced his Gregorian calendar. One must also consider Christmas has generated numerous items of symbolism. Santa Claus is such a symbol.

The man in the red suit is a symbol of giving. When a child realizes the immensity of the earth and the idea of one man visiting every child in one night, the story becomes a fantasy. But, the true concept of Santa Claus is the great blessing of giving and receiving.

Many struggle with the age old story of Santa and him coming down the chimney. Many see this as a lie that has been perpetuated over the years and should not be used in any way.

The Santa concept has good points as well as negative. Too many people in today's world have become perpetual receivers and never givers. The real or imagined existence of Santa Claus is to teach children and adults that it is good and acceptable to receive and to give.

Acts 20: 35b, "remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, it is more blessed to give than to receive." Notice here, Jesus said "more blessed." He did not say it is not a blessing to receive. We receive His greatest gift of eternal life and I can't imagine anyone denying the blessing of salvation.

Several years ago in a sermon in a homeless mission, I spoke on "the symbolic Christmas tree." The triangle shape represents the triune God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13: 14). The cutting and then erecting the tree once again to vertical, represents the death (Matthew 27: 35) and resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 28: 6).

The green tree indicates the life and growth we have in our faith based belief in Christ (2 Peter 3: 18). If we are the same as we were on the day of our salvation (Psalm 51: 12), somewhere along the way, we've missed the point. Christianity is about many subjects, but growth in knowledge of Him is one of the top priorities (Colossians 1: 9-10).

The lights on the tree represent Jesus as the light of the world (John 1: 9). The words truth and light are often used in the New Testament. Only in the light of our Jesus, can the world see and acknowledge the truth and reality of the gospel (Philippians 2: 10-11).

I have been told that people who have their sight restored by surgery or a simple pair of glasses, see the world as never before. By the light of Christ Jesus we also see the world as never before.

Those tree lights certainly are pretty but the light of Jesus is absolutely beautiful beyond description.

The Christmas tree also has gifts placed underneath. The greatest gift mankind has ever or will ever receive is our Savior Jesus. Only Jesus can offer eternity to humanity living in a terminal world. He offers a hope and assurance not offered anywhere else. This gift is offered in exchange for only one thing, our belief in Him.

Santa Claus is also a symbolic figure. Does he exist? He exists in the hearts and minds of children as that man in the red and white suit, riding in a sleigh pulled in the air by reindeer. When we reach a certain stage in life, we realize this image is only a fantasy but the concepts are not.

The concept of giving and receiving as Santa Claus teaches does not end with the realization of him in a sleigh being propelled through endless space on Christmas Eve. The fantasy to a child is a visual image and the reality to an adult is a spiritual concept unequaled.

We are never too old to give or to receive. God Jesus (John 1: 1) is always standing with open arms to receive us as His eternally (Revelation 3: 20).

I'm going on record here as saying, I believe in Santa Claus. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and never forget, without Christ Jesus, there would be nothing merry about Christmas or happy about the holidays.