If Santa’s Not Real, Who Took the Milk and Cookies?

cookies milk

A young boy, upon finding his present under the tree Christmas morn, paused on the floor.

“Is everything okay, Michael?”  His father asked.

“Father, I’ve never seen Santa.  How did he get the presents in the house?”

“Well, he slides down the chimney, of course.”

“But this is a big present.  How could Santa and the present both fit down?”

“Oh, it wasn’t easy.  Magic dust can shrink things down a size.”

“Then, Father, how does Santa get back to normal?”

“By hopping up on the chair next to the table and eating the cookies we left.”

“But what about the present growing back to size?  And what about kids who don’t have a chimney in their house?  And how does Santa do it all in one night?”

“My dear son, I see you’re getting older and wiser than you were a year ago.  But if Santa didn’t take the milk and cookies, then who did?”

Michael proceeded to open his present very slowly.

“It’s wonderful, Father!”

“I’m glad you like it.”

“How did it get wrapped?”

“Son, you are a young man of many questions.  The gift-wrap was cut to the right size, folded around the right-sized box, folded at the ends and then taped.  Nothing would give away its contents.”

“I love this robot!  How does it work?”

“Here.  You use this remote to give commands to the robot.”

“But there are no wires.  How does the remote send commands?”

“Invisible waves are sent through the air as signals.”

“Sent to where?”

“A receiver on the robot’s head takes the signals and delivers them to a circuit board.”

“Father, what’s a circuit board?”

“My dear Michael, you are a very inquisitive five-year-old, but I’m afraid a lesson in circuit boards will have to wait.  Now, listen.  This robot can bring you a cup of water.  It can alert you when someone is sneaking up on you.  It can read for you, warn you of danger, and retrieve some of your things.”

“Father, I know who took the milk and cookies.”

“And who would that be?”

“Someone I’ve never seen.  But someone very wise.  Someone who knows all about wrapping presents and robots and remote signals.  Someone who picked the perfect gift for a boy like me.  And that someone is you.”

“Son, I knew this robot would be a great help and that you would figure out how to use it.  For a boy born without sight, you have a great deal of insight.  Merry Christmas, and thank you for helping with the milk and cookies.”

large or in charge

The shrinking God of the gaps.

Thus ends the Christmas tale of Michael, the non-superstitious boy.  He’s sharp in spite of his disability.  Michael had a barrage of questions to press into his father, but there was still a gap in understanding his gift.  There’s a philosophy that holds God is as mysterious as Santa, better known as the God-in-the- gaps concept.  Not only has the God-in-the-gaps mentality stuck, it has stuck hard.  The idea is that we use God to explain only the things we can’t explain through science, and science is the only explanation of how the universe works.  You can foresee this kind of God shrinking every time a new scientific discovery comes out, kind of like the fictional Santa shrunk to fit down the chimney.

 Atheists have grown impatient lately, accusing Christians of believing in this type of Santa-like God.  For all appearances, science has explained so much that we don’t need to fill our gaps with a miraculous God.  The flaw in this thinking could be seen if little Michael made a further assumption.  Michael’s first hypothesis was that Santa left the present under the tree.  His second hypothesis was that his father left the present under the tree.  A third hypothesis could be that the present came together by natural processes over time.  Considering the complexity bundled into the robot, Michael would have a whole new set of questions to propose.  As long as Michael excluded the second possibility, his father, the boy might be forced to conclude the third possibility of natural causes.  Atheists and theists must be careful not to go for a fallacy where either God is all mystery or science explains everything.

Of course, knowing the second option satisfied Michael.  Even though there were gaps in his understanding, the wise boy accepted an intelligent giver.  The giver wasn’t as mysterious as magical Santa.  Father worked through physical means, and he also put heart and thought into his work.  This meant that Michael could be more engaged, approaching the giver with intelligence and not trust alone.  Much could be explained to Michael, but not everything could be explained at that time.  As long as Father remained wiser, Michael could gain more understanding but never reach a full understanding.  A correct view of God means that we can understand how he used intelligence to frame the universe.  Furthermore, we can see God clearer when we don’t restrict Him to either all-naturalistic or all-spiritual means.  God is a spiritual being who created and governs the physical domain, earning the right to suspend the physical laws when a higher law is required.

Michael couldn’t see Santa because Santa is a fictional character (or an exaggerated description of the historical Saint Nicholas.)  Michael couldn’t see Father because of his blindness.  There are many good reasons we can’t see God.  I recently began reading a book by Ravi Zacharias, where he gives such reasons.  A God with physical features permanently affixed would attract superstitious traditions rather than worship, ethnic claims of supremacy rather than reverence, and commercialism rather than relationship. 

From my years of Bible study, I would say that God wants us to approach Him at a level deeper than flesh and blood.  Although we may have some encounters in this manner, God is a Spirit.  Our spiritual blindness blocks not only a deeper existence of the Divine, it blocks our view of a deeper part of ourselves.  In Matthew 22:37 Jesus brings an old commandment to life.  “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’”  Nothing in there says to grab the lower end of God’s beard, or feel the bulge in His muscles.  Instead, there’s a pursuit that engages the heart, soul, and mind.  The soul-relationship gets mocked by the atheist for carrying fake emotions.  The heart-relationship strikes fear in the commitment-phobe inside every one of us.  The mind-relationship often falls away into explaining creation without a Creator.  And if you think the brain is merely a lump of chemical mass, you’ve committed another fallacy.

The milk and cookies showed gratitude, endearment, and respect.  Who took the milk and cookies?  Father.  Who receives our worship?  Somewhere outside a vanishing Santa, a thoughtless force of nature, and a religious statue, there stands a better option, a living God.  In a letter to the Corinthian church is a promise that we will know the greater side of an existence we don’t yet see.

1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”

We replace our childish ideas with a deeper perspective into the unseen.  One day we will clearly face the living proof, the Divine Spirit who set our material existence into place.  Remember when you were a child, and you began to put together the pieces and realize Santa wasn’t real?  But did you exchange that belief for one where the present was randomly selected and blown in by the wind on exactly the right time on December 25th?  Or did you deduce that another source  of intelligence, one who knew your needs and desires, selected and placed the present for you to find?

Some atheists are crying out to dismiss the Santa God.  But they have thanklessly excluded a wise Father as an alternate giver.  Instead, their trade-off is coincidental assembly as an explanation for the gift of creation.  Milk and cookies represent the sacrifice that disappears at the destructive hands of a mocking atheist.  Unless, of course, the Father already took the sacrifice unbeknownst.

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