Every year, we bear witness to the power of the Santa Claus Industrial Complex. This behemoth vacuums every aspect of a supposedly religious holiday so effectively that one wonders what will be left, when the red suited man and his marketers have finished their work. Not only have they taken a Mediterranean Christian saint famous for giving gifts to orphans and punching heretics (not necessarily in that order) and turned him into a cold loving fat man with a captive eleven labor force, but they’ve also hijacked the entire idea of gift giving. Give gifts as a remembrance of the gift that is Christ? Nope. Give gifts as a way to talk about the Wise Men? Not a chance. Give gifts because the elves have to compulsively make them, and Santa’s got a need to deliver them? You got yourself a deal! I feel the need to keep saying this. I like Christmas. I like gifts. However, I’ll admit to being neutral, at best, on everyone’s favorite denizen of the North Pole.

For me, this has less to do with presents or naught/nice lists, and more to do with his machine has also claiming the belief in the seemingly impossible. For many years, Macy’s Department Stores had “believe” has part of their Christmas campaign. This was not about belief in Christ. It was instead about belief in a massively overweight man being propelled at near light speed by Scandinavian heard animals and systematically breaking and entering into the vast majority of human dwellings on earth all in one night. It was about belief in one man’s ability to observe, track, and judge the activity of every child on the planet and run an incomprehensibly large yet somehow hidden factory complex on rapidly melting ice flows. I get it. I know what list that I’ll be on.

Christmas already contained a bold declaration of the seemingly impossible. It did not need the addition of the actually impossible. The child born in Bethlehem proclaims the beginning of God putting all things right. 2,000 years ago, when Christ arrived, this didn’t sound all that plausible. Rome had God’s people under their thumb. Death, disease, and destruction ran rampant. Those who supposedly spoke for God seemed more interested in their own power or self-righteousness. As the generations have gone on, we often fall victim to the same wonder. Will things ever be right? Is God really going to win in the end?

Mary didn’t wonder. Mary knew. When we ask, “Mary did you know?” This is what Mary knew. With the child in her womb, God had already won. As an unexpectedly pregnant teenager, she belts out not just a song of hope but a prophetic speech declaring that God already had set things right. She speaks not in the future tense that God will do these things. The Song of Mary speaks in the past tense that God has already done it. God fed the hungry with good things. God sent the rich away empty. God brought down the powerful. God lifted up the lowly. Her world no more look like that than ours does. Instead, she powerfully states her faith – a faith so strong that at the beginning of this salvation process, she knows that it’s all over for evil, injustice, and inequality.

I don’t have the faith of Mary. On my good days, I do know in my heart that God will set all things right. As a person who spends my life staring at Scripture, I know how the story ends with Christ coming in final victory and a grand feast of his heavenly banquet. Not all of my days are good, though. When I see the scale of suffering in the world, when I face personal hardship, doubt can creep in, and I can be guilty of despair.

It’s helpful for me that every Advent, we hear anew Mary’s magnificent Magnificat. We need to remember that as people of faith, we believe in something that seems impossible. We believe that in the final calculus, all will be set right. Jesus arriving in the world kicks off that process, so Christmas serves as a reminder that we can believe because we can see God at work in our history setting up the final victory. The problem with clouding this message with a rotund dispenser of toys is that eventually, you learn that he’s more myth than man. He can move so fast because he’s an idea not a being. It allows the question to enter the mind, “If he wasn’t all that he’s cracked up to be, what about these other seemingly impossible promises?” This is why I’m the humbug who would rather talk about Mary than Santa. Mary saw the truth. That truth will set you free. That truth seems impossible, but Mary knew differently. May we be all like her and take this season to believe again in God’s promise.