In conclusion, all parents have to decide what they will do with Santa. I don’t think a death-to-Santa type of thinking is the way to go. I also don’t think we should culturally embrace anything without thinking through it with a Christ centered grid, and in community. But whatever you decide, remember that if Christ is truly your Lord, you can walk around in freedom, not fearing the disapproval or craving the respect from those with whom you differ-including me. No condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Isn’t Jesus awesome?
I shared some Santa reflections from Pastor Mark Driscoll on yesterday’s post. Here are some Henderson reflections on Santa and his place in OUR Christmas season-I’m not writing this to tell you what to do, but to give another example of thinking through a cultural issue. As should be the case, these reflections are informed by scripture, our own experiences, interaction with culture (taking what’s good, tweaking what’s unclear, and tossing what’s bad), and interaction with Christian community (folks like parents, pastors, and friends).
1.) Not pretending he isn’t there. A well known pastor/theologian wrote with a fatherly pride indicating his toddler son had no clue who Santa was. When in a store his son said, “Daddy, who is that funny looking man?” Everyone of course gave him looks of disdain, which he proudly took. I don’t want our children to be unaware of the cultural milieu around them. We want Connar to be aware that Santa is out there, and he is associated with Christmas. Just as children need to be aware that not everyone worships Jesus, children need to be aware that for many, Christmas=Santa and presents ALONE. In addition, Santa is part of our American culture, and to love Americans, we can’t pretend Santa isn’t out there. That’s not loving our neighbors well. I’m indebted to his systematic theology of the church at seminary, but have to part ways with him here.
2.) Making Jesus big. One pastor told me, “Geoff, Jesus is big enough to fill the season, so we talk him up every chance we get during Christmas.” While I don’t want our children to be ignorant of Santa, we try to talk about Jesus every chance we get. From the fisher price nativity scene, to the little devotional book Beginning with God at Christmas put out by the GoodBook Company, to baking cookies for neighbors to baking Jesus a birthday cake, we talk up Jesus as much as possible. We do have a dancing Santa in the house, but the nativity gets the most attention. We were planning on seeing Santa in the firetruck (the firetruck would have been the main draw for Connar), but b/c it wasn’t a priority, it fell through the cracks. Making Jesus big is the primary reason why we make Santa smaller. He is big in the bible, and in particular, these birth narratives where wise men actually worship a little child.
3.) Thanks and Grace. Parents/Grandparents should be acknowledged and thanked for gifts. I’m not sure anyone has ever written “thankyou” notes to Santa-though I could be wrong. But if they did, its obviously a waste of paper and stamps. Amy and I think its important for our kids to thank their parents and grandparents who graciously give them gifts. Connar, and Cade next year, will get presents simply because they are our children and we love them, not because Santa saw they were good kids. And certainly not b/c those freaky Elf-on-a-Shelf things told Santa my kids were good. Connar hears, “Jesus makes you a good boy” all the time. I’d be more likely to drag one of those things behind my car on a West Virginia potholed road then put one in my house.
4.) Trust. We want our kids to be able to trust us, and I just can’t get behind the perpetuation of a myth for several years. However, I do think that pragmatically this is the weakest argument against Santa celebration. I don’t know of anyone today who doesn’t trust their parents or doesn’t trust in Jesus b/c parents “lied” to them about Santa. In fact I’ve witnessed the opposite; parents who celebrated Santa and their kids love Jesus. Maybe parent hypocrisy or lack of training their children, but Santa? Still, I’m on board with the principle of trust, and it does make sense to me. It isn’t the primary reason for downplaying Santa for us. But it does crack the top 5.
5.) History. When Connar gets older, we’ll probably put Santa in a proper historical context and explore the character of Saint Nicholas. Then we can emulate the character of giving presents to those in need.