Missional Santa: Guest Post by Josh Irby
In the 1980 comedy Blues Brothers, Jake Blues—fresh out of prison—puts his old band back together to save the Catholic home where he and his brother Elwood were raised. The brothers are relentless in their pursuit. Whenever they face an obstacle or opposition, they stare back through dark sunglasses and with a heavy Chicago accent say, “We’re on a mission from God.”
Maybe you want the same thing—to be on a mission from God—but wonder if it is possible. Who is missional? Only missionaries and ministers? Only those who are “professional Christians”?
In December 2008 my eyes were opened to this truth: anyone can be on a mission from God. I learned it from Santa Claus.
My wife and I were walking through our local shopping mall a few weeks before Christmas 2008 when she veered off with our two-year-old son toward the Santa display. I was never a big fan of Santa. In fact, I was a vocal opponent. To me, Santa distracted from the true meaning of Christmas. I headed up to the food court to avoid making a scene.
About 15 minutes later, my wife rushed towards me with a huge smile on her face.“What happened?” I asked.
“You won’t believe what Santa said,” she replied. “When we made it to the front of the line, Santa asked Elijah his name. Elijah told him. Then Santa said, ‘Elijah, what a great name. That reminds me of God’s faithfulness to His people in the Old Testament.’”
My jaw dropped. “Santa said that?”
I sent my wife back downstairs to invite Santa over for dinner.A few days later we were sitting around the kitchen table listening to Santa’s life story. He told us each winter he works in a different mall as Santa. During the warmer months he plays the role of Robert E. Lee in Civil War reenactments. He grew up in church, but it wasn’t until he lost his wife to cancer that he encountered a living God. He story was touching and meaningful.
But there was one question I couldn’t wait to ask. It was burning a hole in my mind. I finally gathered the courage.
“Why did you decide to become Santa? Do you get tired of sitting in that big chair for 8+ hours every day?”
He ran his hand over his beard and answered in his warm Santa voice, “There are a lot of hurting people in the world. For some reason, people will open up and listen to Santa more than anyone else. This week a woman brought her son to see me. I could tell something was wrong. When I asked, she told me all about the problems she was having with her husband. She started crying. I told her how much God loved her and that I would pray for her.
“That’s why I put on that red suit. It’s Christmas. People need to know the reason for the season, that God loved the world so much that he gave his son Jesus for them.”
For the second time in a week, Santa left me speechless. He was on a mission from God. He was Missional Santa.
If Santa can do it, So can you. So can I.
If a man who dresses up in black boots and red velvet during the holiday season can be missional, then why can’t you? What mission is God sending you on?
If Santa can do it, so can you.
Santa taught me that being missional is a state a mind, not a job description. It is a way of approaching life that looks for opportunities to share the love and hope of God. And you don’t need a white beard and red coat or black sunglasses and a Chicago accent to do it.
[If you want to read the whole story of my family’s encounter with Santa (teaser: he comes to live with us), you can download a FREE copy of my short eBook When Santa Came for Dinner on my website.
Josh is a writer who lives in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina with his wife and four children. For more than a decade he has worked with university students, helping them tell better stories with their lives. If you come to Sarajevo, you will likely find him in the corner of a local cafe sipping a macchiato and talking with friends. You can follow him on Twitter @sarajevoJosh and friend him on Facebook. You can find his website and that free book here.