Christmas is just a little more than a week away. No doubt by now you’ve purchased your Christmas gifts. You’ve sent your Christmas cards and put up your decorations. You’ve planned out how your Christmas celebration is going to go.
But I want to take a moment to encourage you to keep the focus where it belongs.
Much digital ink has been spilled on blogs, Facebook, and so on about whether or not Christians can properly incorporate Santa into their Christmas celebrations. I’m guessing that you probably have read some of those things, probably argued your viewpoint (at least in your own head, even if you avoided the online debate), and have made up your mind about it.
So I don’t think I’m going to change your mind if your mind is made up. But here’s what I would like to say – Make sure your children know that from start to finish, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of the Savior. Whatever other fun things we build into our celebration, from baking cookies to opening presents to playing Santa, make sure they know that it is really all about Jesus.
I’ve seen a growing trend with the Santa issue that disturbs me, so permit me to harp just a moment on it (even though I know I already said I don’t purpose to change your mind). The trend is twofold – to keep kids believing in Santa later and later into their lives, and then defending teaching kids to believe in Santa.
In the first case, I know that when I was young it usually wasn’t a big deal when a kid learned that Santa wasn’t real. Parents shrugged, owned up to it, told the kids it was just a game, and then maybe said, “Don’t tell your little brother!” That was it. I don’t remember parents getting upset about their kid finding out that Santa wasn’t real. Maybe it happened and I just didn’t know about it, but talking with people in my parents’ generation, I gather it just wasn’t that big of a deal. Lately, I keep hearing about people getting really upset when someone spills the beans. Is it really that big of a deal?
The other part is even more disturbing to me, though. Some of the defense I’ve seen is beyond silly. Please don’t be too offended if you’re someone who has posted or reposted or quoted or repeated some of these; they have appeared in my Facebook news feed so much I can’t point the finger at any one person. I just want to point out the dangerous thinking in a couple of the more frequently sighted ones.
One is the idea that Santa “puts a little magic into Christmas”. Here’s the thing: Christmas doesn’t need magic. It has Jesus. If you want a little fun with Santa, go ahead. But let’s not do this thing where we say that somehow removing Santa would make Christmas less special. That implies that Jesus + Santa is better than Jesus alone. But Jesus, all on his own, is better than anything. Nothing more is needed. As Tullian Tchividian titled his book, “Jesus + Nothing = Everything.”
The other one I’ve seen a lot of this year is one that says that believing in Santa helps a child learn to believe in the unseen, and that somehow this prepares the child to believe in God. Look, you can play Santa with your kids, but this one is just wrong, and here’s why: True belief in God is called “faith”, and faith is worked by the Holy Spirit. It is a miracle he performs through his power and the Gospel. We already have a culture that pushes Santa on us place of Christ in all the marketing and movies and so on. Let’s not also let Santa replace the Holy Spirit and the one who works faith. He has no power or right to do so.
Alright, lest it seem like I’m only picking on the pro-Santa camp, I have words that need sayin’ with my own camp (the “We don’t do Santa with our kids” camp – yes, that’s where I live). There’s a little bit of foolishness on this side as well. Here’s one: “Christmas isn’t all about Jesus, it’s all about us!” I saw this one floated around by a few people recently. I get the point – Jesus came to save us, so Christmas is about God giving the gift of salvation to us. Yep, that’s true. But God didn’t give us Jesus so we could say, “Yay, it’s all about me now!” He gave us Jesus so we could be free to say, “It is all about Jesus!”
And here’s another one: “We don’t do Santa in our house, but we also don’t celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas because he wasn’t born in December anyway. Christmas was put in December to line up with a pagan holiday, so Christians shouldn’t celebrate it at all.” You think this argument is rare? I’ve seen it popping up all over the place this year. Just stop, guys. It’s a pointless argument. The Church has celebrated Jesus’ birth in December for hundreds of years, and whatever the reason for placing it on December 25th originally, that’s where it is now. We’re not saying it’s when he was born, we’re saying it is when we all agree to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
That’s really my point in all of this: December 25th is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior. That’s the lesson you want your children to learn too. If you obfuscate that with all kinds of talk about how it is less magical without Santa, or about how shepherds wouldn’t have been living in the fields in December, or about how Santa helps you believe in God, or about how the early Christian church was trying to hijack Saturnalia from the Romans, your kids are going to catch on and wonder where Jesus fits into the picture.
You don’t want your kids to wonder where Jesus fits in your world. You want them to know that Jesus is most important. That he needs nothing else to make him special. That it’s okay to celebrate him any time, but especially good to celebrate him with the believers of yesterday and today at the time we have celebrated him for generations.
So, go ahead and play Santa. Decorate and bake cookies and open presents. But please make sure that Jesus gets all the focus he deserves, and make sure your kids know that if Christmas was stripped of everything else, as long as there is Jesus, you’ll still celebrate with joy.