Thinking About Santa

Warning: the following article may burst your “holiday bubble” if you still believe in Santa. In all seriousness, good people differ on the role Santa should or should not have in a Christian family’s life. I thought the following was a thought-provoking section of a book that I recently picked up. It’s written to be a help to you as you navigate the holidays with your family.

The following is an excerpt taken from a book, Treasuring God in our Traditions, by Noel Piper. (Crossway Books, copyright 2003, pp. 80-81).

For several reasons, we have chosen not to include Santa Claus in our Christmas stories and decorations. First, fairy tales are fun, but we don’t ask our children to believe them. Second, celebrating with Santa and manger will postpone a child’s clear understanding of what the real truth of God is. It’s very difficult for a young child to pick through a marble cake of part truth and part imagination to find the crumbs of reality. We want our children to understand God as fully as they’re able, at whatever age they are. So we try to avoid anything that would inhibit or distort that understanding.

Third, think how confusing it must be to a literal-thinking, uncritical pre-schooler. Santa is so much like what we’re trying all year to teach our children about God. Look at the “attributes of Santa:

  • He’s omniscient – he sees everything you do.
  • He rewards you if you’re good.
  • He’s omnipresent – at least, he can be everywhere in one night.
  • He gives you good gifts.
  • He’s the most famous “old man in the sky” figure.

But at the deeper level that young children can’t comprehend yet, he is not like God at all. For example, does Santa really care if we’re bad or good? Think of most awful kid you can remember. Did he or she ever not get gifts from Santa? What about Santa’s spying and rewarding you if you’re good enough? That not the way God operates. He gave us His gift – His Son – even though we weren’t good at all. “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He gave His gift to us to make us good, not because we had proved ourselves good enough.

Helping our children understand God as much as they’re able to at whatever age they are is our primary goal. But we’ve also seen some other encouraging effects of not including Santa in our celebration.

First, I think children are glad to realize that their parents, who live with them all year and know all the worst things about them, still show their love at Christmas. Isn’t that better than a funny, old make-believe man who drops in just once a year?

Second, our children know our family’s usual giving patterns for birthdays and special events. They seem to have an instinct about our typical spending levels and abilities. Knowing that their Christmas gifts come from the people they love, rather than from a bottomless sack, can help diminish the “I-want-this, give-me-that” syndrome.

And, finally, when children know that God’s generosity is reflected by God’s people, it tends to encourage a sense of responsibility about helping make Christmas good for others.

Karsten [John & Noel Piper’s son], for example, worked hard on one gift one year. On Christmas morning in 1975, my husband stepped around a large, loose-flapped cardboard box to get to his chair at the breakfast table. “Where’s Karsten?” he asked, expecting to see our excited three-year-old raring to leap in to the day.

Sitting down, I said, “He’ll be here in a minute. ” I nudged the box with my toe.

Karsten threw back the flaps and rose to his full three-foot stature. “And there were shepherd living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them…” He had memorized Luke 2:8-20 as a gift for his dad. Karsten knew Santa wasn’t the one to depend on.

In fact, a few days later Karsten and I were walking down the hall at church. One of the older ladies leaned down to squeeze his pink, round cheek and asked, “What did Santa bring you?”

Karsten’s head jerked quickly toward me, and he whispered loudly, “Doesn’t she know?”

These thoughts raise the question: If not Santa, then what?

One Response

  1. Whew! Did I need to hear that! We don’t do Santa with our kids, but this year it has exploded into a huge argument with my parents. My parents believe that we are destroying our kids’ childhood! What a timely blessing it was to read this article. I feel strengthened and encouraged about the decisions we have made regarding Christmas. Thanks so much, Pastor Mosier!

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