Mark Sandlin — one of the most kind, humble, thoughtful, intelligent, creative people I know — recently recited one of his original poems — to the Southside Christian School International Homestay Program host parents at their Christmas dinner on Monday, December 17, 2018 — and to the SCS Upper School Staff at our annual Christmas party on Tuesday, December 18, 2018. If you would like to read what I think is a brilliant commentary on Christmas commercialism — even and especially by Christians — “Santa Strikes Back,” read on. . . .
“Santa Strikes Back”
By Mark Sandlin
At the North Pole one day, on the couch for a snooze,
I thought, “Maybe I’ll hop in my sleigh for a cruise.
The weather is too cold to sit here homebound;
Maybe Santa will go do some poking around.
Maybe take in some sights and then just make a stop
To see an American Christian bookshop.”
I’m scolded so often, you see, in December
For not causing people the Lord to remember
For promoting just toys and not holy behavior
Not honoring rightly the birth of the Savior
So I’ll see if the Christians do better down there
Than me–and I added some dye to my hair
And I quickly changed clothes so I’d be incognito
(Mrs Claus, as I left, handed me a burrito)
Well, the bookshop was much bigger than I had thought,
The parking lot vast–but I fought for a slot.
The glass doors whooshed open and then closed behind,
In the entrance a Bible verse hung on a sign.
The verse said, “I lift up mine eyes to the hills,”
So I lifted mine up, and saw stuffed to the gills
A gigantic warehouse with stuff beyond measure;
A superstore strangely named “Heaven in Treasure”.
Well, I couldn’t tell which one was more in demand,
The Scripture itself, or “Footprints in the Sand”.
There were Testamints—breath mints marked “John 3:16”;
And cookbooks that introduced Bible cuisine.
There was oil for anointing and prayer cloths for healing,
And angel mobiles dangling down from the ceiling.
There were holy land mustard seeds ready for planting,
A “Prayer of Jabez” Room for sitting and chanting,
Toy armor for children marked “Fight the Good Fight”,
And a whole sep’rate room selling “Paintings of light”.
There were CD-rom games and a chance to invest in
A Holy land tour led by Charlton Heston.
There were all kinds of frog items, that seemed quite odd,
Till I saw FROG means “Fully Relying On God”.
There were Scriptures on every spoon, ashtray, and cup
(Hohoho! — but you know I’m not making this up.)
And the Bibles! The choices just made the mouth water:
A Bible for mother, a Bible for daughter,
Taped Bibles for people too busy to read,
Bibles for every conceivable need.
Bibles for teens who want God to be cool,
Bibles so small you can take them to school.
A Bible for sisters, a bible for brothers,
A bible for golfers, for singles, for lovers!
Bibles with God less severe and less bloody,
Self-esteem Bibles with God as our buddy.
Spirit-filled Bibles for those with afflictions,
Co-Dependency Bibles for those with addictions.
And each new translation with slight variation
Caused the consumers to buy with elation
With new Bible frenzy they thought it a must
To buy them and take them to gather new dust.
There were Bibles in every shape, color, and size
So many to choose that it dazzled the eyes.
I opened a fancy one just for a minute;
A leather deluxe–and I saw these words in it:
St Paul wrote, “We don’t peddle God’s Word for profit”;
I slammed the Book shut and thought: Oh Paul, come off it.
These “peddlers” invest!–they deserve a return!
Who’s it hurting if they make some money to burn?
Well then I proceeded to walk past the piles
Of Christian stuffed animals lining the aisles.
Action figures of Moses and Jesus and Paul
And aerobics praise videos lined one whole wall.
The small section marked “Christian Classics” was bare,
So that Left Behind (Book 18) could be placed there;
While Augustine, Luther, and Spurgeon, and Foxe
Were hastily stored in a small cardboard box.
But the huge music section took up half the space!
All the sounds of the world with a fresh Christian face.
Urban and rap and bee-bop, instrumental;
Electronic, Fusion – and experimental;
Celtic and blues and acoustic and rock;
Screaming guitar or traditional Bach!
Country and western, or folk songs, or jazz;
They had all the same music the other guy has.
More music than I’d seen in many long moons;
The Devil no longer has all the good tunes!
I looked all around at the blessed merchandise
All of heaven was here, and at fair market price.
“Gold and silver,” said Peter and John, “Have I none,”
But if they could see this place they’d sure have some fun;
They’d see we’ve progressed, that today our faith frees us
To make a small fortune by marketing Jesus.
And to think I’m the one who is cut up and diced
‘Cause I “corrupt Christmas”–well they corrupt Christ!
If I do secularize, well, it’s just once a year
But they commercialize Scripture year-round, around here.
Well, I pondered inside what to make of this place,
Till the answer just struck me right smack in the face:
WWJD—that stuff filled one whole shelf:
That’s it! What would HE do, if He stood here Himself?
Jesus was patient and loving and kind,
And always had others’ welfare on His mind;
He was wise and discerning and righteous and true–
Jesus would understand just what to do.
And with that in mind I bent over a tad,
To get a last look at some little doodad;
I bent very close to examine the labels,
Then, briskly, I overturned all of the tables.
After all, really, what WOULD Jesus do
If He came here and browsed for an hour or two?
Well, it took only moments but seemed to take days,
To run through the store overturning displays.
I left nothing upright, though I left I confess
One plaque on the wall that said “God bless this Mess”.
Well, alarm bells rang out, and the doors auto-locked,
And store guards surrounded me, armed, triggers cocked.
The customers all started shouting at me,
And some kid in a Veggie Tales shirt bit my knee.
The sprinklers came on, and the cashiers were screaming,
When I woke–to discover that I had been dreaming.
Before I could reach for my knee and say ouch,
I discovered that I was back home on my couch.
Well that was some dream as I’m sure you can see;
It was stranger than strange what had happened to me.
But as I awoke I began to recall,
That none of it really had happened at all.
What ridiculous fiction! What pure fantasy
My afternoon dream had presented to me!
So I rose from the couch and I tucked my shirt in,
And thought, “Maybe I’ll just take my sleigh for a spin.”
The weather is too cold to sit here homebound;
Maybe Santa will go do some poking around…