This may offend some people, and I am willing to take that risk for speaking out about what I think to be “The Santa Dilemma”.
In our American culture, the true meaning of Christmas over that last 150 years has been all but covered up. Christmas produces some of the most unhappy times of year and makes a liar out of the song writer who wrote: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. This saddens me, because I truly do try to make it a happy time of year, but when I go driving to the mall, and get flicked off, yelled at and hum bugged at because I parked somewhere that someone else desired to, it drags ya down a bit.
I could go on about how Christmas spirit is slipping away, but we’re here to talk about Santa. Santa has been a hallmark for Christmas for some time now and I think that we have 3 choices when it comes to Santa: reject him, receive him or redeem him.
I think our culture has grown to love Santa to the deep level of not fully being able to reject Santa. Santa does have Christian roots. His is the story of a man who loved Jesus and loved the poor and because of his love for both he took some of his earthly wealth and during the year St. Nick gave presents to children who otherwise would have had nothing. St. Nick didn’t spoil the kids with junk and expensive toys, nor did he know with magical powers who was naughty or nice. Neither could he fly or appear to the whole world in one night…those were the add-ons that should be rejected, but St. Nick himself shouldn’t be rejected, his story, legacy and passion for the Lord should be redeemed and remembered!
I also think that we can’t fully receive the whole package of ‘Santa’ either. I’ve wrestled with this hard and long because I now have three children who will soon start (and have started) believing in such things. Do I want to lie to my children about an omnipotent, omniscient being who is fat, jolly and gives out tons and tons of toys, only to have them one day find out the truth and be crushed? I had to answer no. I don’t mind having my son sitting on Santa’s lap, or talking to him about the legend of Santa, or explaining how some of what Santa “does” is myth, I just can’t pass those things off as truth. I just can’t. If I am going to tell my son about Santa Claus and explain how he has similar powers to God and then later my son finds out that Santa is a fake, why would he then believe me when I talk about God? I actually had an atheist teen in my Youth Group ask me once: “God sounds like Santa. Santa we say isn’t real, why should I believe God is real?” That got me to think about this Santa Dilemma pretty deeply and caused me to shape then (before children) how I would approach this subject.
A side from the lying…I don’t want to set my kids up for getting crushed emotionally. One day they will find out there is no Santa and never was one in the light he is now described and it will crush both of my kids emotionally when they find out the truth, I just don’t desire to be the one responsible for that kind of pain. Knowing that I for 4 or 5 years had lied to my son to only wait for the inevitable blow, and have the lights click on that Daddy had lied to him is too much for me to deal with. This sets up all kinds of loss of trust and I am not willing to sacrifice my children’s trust over a myth.
Santa can be redeemed; I think we must redeem St. Nick’s story from the clutches of consumerism! He, like I said believed in Jesus, lived a life of charity for those in need and those are Christian attributes to be encouraged in our children. Christmas is about Jesus and St. Nick would be appalled at what we have done to take the focus off of Jesus in his name. I am not talking about “taking away Christmas Spirit”; I’m talking about infusing the True Christmas spirit into the Season that is the Spirit of God.
Last year, I read this on my friend; Mike Alex’s Facebook wall: “Why do those in the Church feed their children a Santa who gives gifts only if they are good when we have a savior who is alive and gave His life because He was good and perfect and His children were evil? Why don’t we captivate our children with the Gospel?”
St. Nick’s story, the real one could in fact captivate our children with the Gospel. The current narrative is literally one of control and consumerism, while the true story is one of generosity and love. With the current cultural narrative of Santa, one only receives gifts because of how they act…and sadly this has infused our Christian culture (especially in the west) where we expect God to do good and nice things for us because of what we do. Yet the Gospel says He does them because of his generous and loving heart!
Lastly, I desire to teach my children proper gratitude. If I get a gift for my child, I want them to know it was me who got it for them. I desire to be a good gift-giver to my kids so that I can the reflect how good our Father in Heaven is at giving gifts. If I say that Santa was the one who made and got these things for them, I have stripped them of proper gratitude because they will be thanking the air instead of their Father and Mother.
It pains me that many Christians put more emphasis on Santa than Jesus and many may think my view to be a “Scrooge’s Stance” but Christmas is about the Advent of Christ, realizing His gift to me was His life and resurrection and at his birth that chain of events started. Christmas isn’t about what I get, it’s about what I already HAVE…Jesus.
I personally don’t know why anyone knowing both the Gospel and the real story of St. Nick would choose to willingly craft a lie for their children, a lie that is both manipulative and antithetical to the Gospel. I do not hate you if you do, nor am I thinking I am better than you if you do share the story of ‘Santa’ the way the culture does, I just don’t see why you would. Please share in the comments as to why.