Where it all began
Since becoming a follower of Jesus back in 1995, I have always been uneasy with the idea of Santa. I’ve talked to many Christians who feel the same way and consequently have decided not to raise their kids to believe in the whole Santa mythology. Some don’t like the idea of telling their kids an elaborate lie, especially if they are at the same time trying to teach them the truth about God. Some don’t like the fact that the whole Santa story overshadows and distracts kids from the original Christmas story about Jesus. I remember once a non-Christian friend of mine telling me that if I wasn’t going to teach my kids about Santa then I would be robbing them of the magic of Christmas. I responded that the idea of God coming to earth in the form of a human being was pretty “magical” to me!
Some other parents aren’t stressed so much about the fantasy element of Santa. Rather their issue is with his message. The original story of St Nicholas generously giving gifts to poor children has been replaced over time by the commercialised cartoon Santa who lives in the North Pole, has elves who make all the toys and who distributes gifts based on whether a child is “naughty” or “nice”. I have long observed and reflected on this message. I have thought about what it teaches children and how this moralistic message is very close to the mistaken ideas that many people have about the Christian gospel. Even back in 2007 I made a silly video that spoofed the election campaign of the soon-to-be Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. Here it is:
So, for a while I’ve been musing about what would happen if these two messages were compared to each other. I began to imagine what would happen if the mythical Santa had to grapple with the true gospel. Eventually, in December 2013, I got the inspiration to put this idea to a poem and wrote “When Santa Learned the Gospel”.
I published it on my blog site: SimonCamilleri.com and it was very well received. A year later, in Christmas 2014, I shared the post again on Facebook, and this time it really took off! Just on that Christmas Eve it was viewed 1,846 times and at the time I am writing this it has been viewed now 19,543 times! That’s twice as many views as my next most popular post. So, I quickly saw that this poem resonated with people and I started hearing that people were sharing it at their church and one preacher I know of even used it as part of his Christmas sermon!
I decided that the interest in this poem warranted me thinking about getting it published and so I started a Facebook Page to keep people informed as to the progress of that. I sent off the poem and the idea to get it published to several Christian publishers and the ones I heard back from were very kind but didn’t take me up on the offer.
In 2015, The Bible Society Australia (who was one of the publishers who I had contacted), told me that they liked the poem so much they wanted to publish it on their online Eternity magazine. You can see it HERE. This gave the poem another year of life and exposure and again it was very well received.
Now, we get to 2016. Every year, my church Bundoora Presbyterian, holds a charity fundraiser variety night called “Bundy Unplugged”, and every year I perform some song or magic trick or poem. This year, I decided to share three of my poems, the second one being, “When Santa Learned the Gospel”.
Again, this poem was very well received and after the event was over, one of the elders of my church, who also runs a business and likes to help people get gospel-focused projects off the ground, came up to me enthusiastically. I don’t think he knew that it was a dream of mine, but the first thing he said was “We have to turn that Santa poem into a book!”
So with his enthusiasm spurring me on, I decided to give it a go again. Along the journey, I had met a wonderful Illustrator named Matthew Boutros and so I contacted him and told him that we were going to see if we could make this book a reality!
So that’s how it all began. I hope I can look back on this story in a year or two and enjoy it as the starting point. I hope I can eventually hold this book in my hand and see it on a shelf in a Christian bookstore and hear about how people bought copies for their friends and family. And I hope that Christ will be honoured as this book plays a small part in bringing the gospel into people’s homes at Christmas time.