My cartoon “God’s Gift”, which was posted to my website back in December of 2009, was upsetting to some. I received several emails from people who did not like that I had used Santa Claus in the cartoon. One person even wrote that the cartoon was sinful.
I have to admit, I was not surprised. I expected that I might get that reaction. Santa Claus is a very distressing character to many Christians. I remember an incident years ago, in my hometown of Jacksonville, where a pastor hung Santa Claus in effigy outside his church. It caused a bit of a stir back then.
I can certainly understand why Santa is so upsetting to some Christians. The true meaning of Christmas is, of course, the birth of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. What gets Christians angry about Santa Claus is that he has pretty much replaced Jesus as the meaning of the season in a lot of people’s minds. It’s ironic, since the Santa Claus myth is based on a real person, St. Nicholas, who was a Christian priest back in the fourth century.
In spite of all that, I have to say that I don’t really consider Santa Claus to be very threatening. In my mind, he’s just a fictional character, one that has been overused in television commercials, television shows, and movies. I know some people are horrified when parents pretend to their children that Santa is coming to their house on Christmas Eve. I see it as an elaborate prank that parents get to play on their children. My parents played the Santa gag on me. I remember my Dad taking me outside on a chilly morning to show me the reindeer hoofprints in the yard. Even though I was very young and gullible, I somehow wasn’t buying it. But, I was certainly willing to accept Santa’s gifts on Christmas morning.
The idea for the cartoon came to me while I was reading Romans chapter 5. There the Apostle Paul uses the word “gift” several times in referring to God’s grace to us in sacrificing His son Jesus on the cross, to redeem us from our sins. That word “gift” made me think of that famous gift-giving character, Santa Claus. I thought I could use him to picture the gift of grace that God gave us through His son Jesus. Rather than using Santa to obscure the meaning of Christmas, as so much of our modern American society does, I thought I could use Santa to point to the true “reason for the season”.
I apologize to all who were offended at my cartoon. It was certainly not my intention to upset anyone. Incidentally, not all of the email reaction to this cartoon was negative. I actually received more positive than negative comments. One person even told me that it was my best cartoon.
UPDATE December 8, 2013
Looking at this cartoon again after some time, I decided to make a few minor alterations to the cartoon. By removing the hat, the mittens, and the fur lining on the coat, the character no longer has the classic appearance of Santa, and could simply be a man with a white beard. I never set out to make controversial or offensive cartoons, and I certainly do not want the identity of the character to detract from the essence of the cartoon, which is God’s indescribable gift of Jesus.