Friday FunLink – Surprising “Here Comes Santa Claus” Lyrics

I’m proctoring the last final of our first semester (even though the semester doesn’t actually end until Jan. 15th). It’s not mine, so I can sit and watch rather than run room to room answering questions (like I did on Wed). I can grade my midterm essays or I can post here. For now, I’ll procrastinate and choose the later option.

Yesterday, I wrote about one of the most religious seasonal songs – “O Come, O Come Emanuel.” Today, as we’re exactly a week away from Christmas, I think it’s okay to blog about a Christmas (rather than an Advent) carol.

I discovered these surprising lyrics a few years ago when I was doing some research for a graduate school paper. Wanting to see if there are any religious messages/themes in the more secular carols (ones with Santa, reindeer, etc.), I did a Google search.

We’re all familiar with the first and maybe second verses of carols, like “Here Comes Santa Claus”:

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus
Right down Santa Claus Lane
Vixen, Blitzen, all his reindeer
Pulling on the reins
Bells are ringing, children singing
All is merry and bright
Hang your stockings and say a prayer
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight
Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus
Riding down Santa Claus Lane
He’s got a bag that’s filled with toys
For boys and girls again
Hear those sleigh bells jingle jangle
Oh, what a beautiful sight
Jump in bed and cover up your head
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight
Note that there’s an exhortation to “say your prayers” in the first verse. Compare this to the classic poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (with the indelible first line: “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) in which prayer or devotion is nowhere to be found.
Most versions of Gene Autry’s “Here Comes Santa Claus” end with these two verses. But the song gets more religious (and more interesting) in the next verse:
Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus lane
He doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor
He loves you just the same
Santa Claus knows we’re all Gods children
That makes everything right
So fill your hearts with Christmas cheer
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!
Wow – Santa is unconditionally loving!?!  What about “He [Santa] knows if you’ve been bad or good / So be good for goodness sake!” “He loves you just the same / Santa Claus knows we’re all Gods children” is quite the contrast to the veiled threats in other secular carols. It’s a common trope that God is not Santa Claus (see here and here and here):
Santa and God
But, what if the opposite is actually true – Santa Claus is like God in his unconditional love and generosity for and to all of “Gods children.”
But wait, it gets better…. Here’s the fourth (and final) verse:
Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus lane
He’ll come around when the chimes ring out
That it’s Christmas morn again
Peace on earth will come to all
If we just follow the light
So lets give thanks to the lord above
That Santa Claus comes tonight!
Now we’re singing about peace and gratitude. What is more central to the gospel than these attitudes? And we’re urged to not just give thanks, but to “give thanks to the lord above.” Not too far from the great doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”
I also like how the connection is made between “peace on earth” coming “if we just follow the light.” While “light” is surely a central theme of this time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere) in which the solar year is waning, this verse pushes the sentiment closer to:
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
So, what do we do with this secular carol with not just religious but downright christological sentiments? How about including this in a church Christmas concert or cantata. Juxtapose it with a traditional religious hymn to excite the kiddos and educate the adults.
Until then, sing along to the full, joyful, hopeful lyrics:
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