If you want to make Christian parents get defensive and fall out with each other, you just need to say six words:
What do you do about Santa?
In my experience, we can agree to differ over baptism, over music styles, even over what kind of coffee to serve after the service. But Santa? Not so much.
So, just so that you don’t have to scan down this post for the one line that will dictate whether you (a) like me and (b) read the rest of this blog…
We don’t include Santa in our holiday.. We have told our kids that Santa is a funny made-up story.
Still reading? Thank you!
Free to do Santa (and not)
When the church in Rome began falling out over eating certain meats, Paul reminded them that “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14 v 17). Likewise, the kingdom of God is not about whether or not your kids put out a stocking (or pillowcase – that’s inflation) for Father Christmas.
It’s easy for me to look down on other Christians who go full-bore for Santa in their houses, and assume that they have been unthoughtful or worldly. That’s called pride, and Jesus reserved some pretty harsh words for proud people. Equally, I guess it’s easy for others to look at our kids, sans Santa, and assume that we are killjoys or Pharisees. That’s also called pride, I think. The kingdom of God is about righteousness, peace, and joy. Not pride.
But it does matter that we think about it, because we are to raise our children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6 v 4), and that never happened by accident. But it is not a salvation issue—no one will fail to stand in the judgment on the last day because they told their kids that a big guy in red brings presents round—or that he doesn’t.
That said, here are three reasons we don’t do Santa. Feel free (literally) to thoughtfully disagree!
1. There’s only room for one exciting story
The incarnation is the story of how the hands that placed stars in the parts of the cosmos we haven’t yet discovered came to be wrapped around a woman’s thumb. In our house, we want our kids to be gripped by that story. I’d rather not give that story a rival which is more concrete (I can see Santa at the mall, and his presents come wrapped with paper), but less true and less awesome. If my kids don’t care about Santa, why tell them about him? If they do, perhaps I’m offering them an idol to be the object of their dreams and joys at Christmas.
2. We are fighting for grace in a world of works
My eldest started school this year. If he’s good, he goes “on the rainbow”. If he misbehaves, he’s down on the “raincloud” (I haven’t pointed out that to have the first, you have to have the second—I don’t think that’s the point). He is taught every day that life is about his performance earning his rewards, so we are striving every day to point him to grace. We all long for our kids to grasp, and enjoy, the great truth that God’s view of them is not dependent on their performance, but on Christ’s—that if Jesus is their King, they are loved unconditionally in the eyes of the only One whose verdict ultimately and eternally matters.
Santa (and his “elf on the shelf”) is a works-righteousness guy. Have you been good? Then you get presents. Now we know it’s all made up. Our kids don’t (unless we tell them). I don’t want Christmas Day to feature a contest of works v grace. I’m not going to help the world out by teaching works to them at home.
3. Truth Matters
Truth-telling is prized highly in the Bible. And so we teach our kids to tell the truth, even if it would be easier or more fun to withhold it or deliberately cover it up. I think I should ask the same standard of myself that I ask of them—particularly since the Bible seems to call for that standard.
What they say to me
“Ah,” but people say when we tell them we don’t do Santa, “but your kids are missing out!” Yes, they are. They also miss out on Diwali, Hanukkah, Eid, and a whole heap of things that involve some fun but are based on something that isn’t true. And I am really praying that my kids will grow up joyfully offering themselves to their Savior as living sacrifices. The Scriptures don’t seem to teach a minimum age for cross-carrying.
“Ah,” but people say next (if they are still speaking to me), “but what if they tell other kids who do believe in Santa that it’s not true?” If that happens, a large part of me will be pleased, particularly if my kids also talk about how there’s a greater Christmas story than Santa’s. I’ll be pleased my kids told the truth. And I’ll be pleased that there’s about to be an opportunity for me to do a bit of cross-carrying when I next meet that child’s parents…
No Santa, more excitement
One more thing. Those of us who say we focus on Jesus instead of Santa at Christmas need to make sure that Christmas for our kids is more exciting, not less. That takes time and effort, and appreciation of the greater, truer, grace-filled story for ourselves. If we have a better story to enjoy, we can have a better Christmas full of joy.
This article originally appeared on TheGoodBook.com. Used with permisson.
Carl Laferton is Editorial Director at TGBC. He is author of Original Jesus, Promises Kept and Christmas Uncut, and series editor of the God's Word For You series. Before joining TGBC, he worked as a journalist, a teacher, and pastored a congregation in Hull. Carl is married to Lizzie and they have two children, Benjamin and Abigail. He studied history at Oxford University.
Image courtesy: Unsplash.com
Publication date: December 19, 2016