Recently, as is custom this time of year, my three year old Connar is being accosted by a plethora of folks asking if he’s excited by what Santa will bring him this year.
In response to his pre-school teacher the other day who told him, “5 more days till Santa comes,” he changed the subject with, “One more day till I get to go Xmas caroling!” How cool.
Here are some of my takes-which may not be super popular in Suburbia-on Jesus and Santa.
Of course his, like mine and like your motivations, are far from perfect. But the truth of the matter is that kids can and do get just as-if not more-excited about Jesus during the Christmas season than they do Santa Claus. We just often don’t afford them such opportunity. As parents, and as a covenant community, and larger body of Christ (I’m surprised at how many Christians talk up Santa to my kid!), we often try to “save room” for Santa. You see signs that say “Keep Christ in Christmas.” But what I’ve noticed is many Christians live out the opposite: “Keep Santa in Xmas.”
Suburban Xmas is often more culturally syncretistic than distinctly Christian. And that is sad.
First of all, I do want to say, I’m not anti-Santa. Christians have a right to include Santa in Xmas. I’m not arguing against the inclusion of Santa in any form. I’m arguing against a culturally conformed, unrestrained, non-prayerful inclusion of Santa.
I remember reading a Sinclair Ferguson book where he seemed quite proud of his job as a parent when his kid didn’t even know who Santa was or what he looked like. That’s more of a separatist mentality that I cannot embrace.
We have Santa hats. We actually have a dancing Santa figure, who sadly only dances now instead of sings. Connar watched The Polar Express the other day with some friends who brought it over. The underlying purpose of that movie is to preach Santa to his skeptics.
But we try to focus on Jesus so much that Santa naturally gets pushed to the side. Where he belongs. There is only so much room. We do a kids Advent book called Beginning with God at Christmas. Solid. We listen to carols, sing them, sing them to others, try to talk about them (though just a bit). Xmas is a busy time. It’s so busy, we don’t have much time for Santa. We rarely ever even speak of him. What if your Xmas was so busy you didn’t have much time for Santa?
Growing up my parents had a figurine of Santa bowing in worship to Jesus in the manger. So simple, yet so profound. That’s really the model I like best, but one that seems missing to me so often in the lives of Christians. There are only so many times a child can be told about getting excited for Santa before he will only get excited for Santa and not for Jesus.
My kid is excitable. I’m excitable, so he can’t help it. But he gets so much joy out of celebrating all things Jesus during this time, that I honestly don’t feel the need to make Santa big. I tend to think other kids can get just as excited.
Connar can sit in Santa’s lap, and I can take (not pay for) a picture if I feel like it. I just think we do our children a disservice by assuming that Santa is NEEDED during Xmas time for their enjoyment of the season. That’s just a lie. He can be used and included, but he is not needed.
People say Christmas and Santa are for kids. That’s really not accurate. It’s for parents. The perpetuation of the Santa myth is done primarily for the sake of the parents. I’ve heard of folks say, “Don’t steal my joy by telling them the truth about Santa.” I think a good part of the perpetuation of the Santa myth is fueled by parents who aren’t very excited about Jesus. They want to be excited and feel joy. But if you already have a joy so great as the shepherds, Mary, the Magi had at Jesus’ coming, would it be that hard to make Santa less? Do you “need” Santa in the same way if you already have joy?
Many want to see kids get excited primarily in order for them to get excited. It’s more selfishness than love.
I think that’s why its so hard for many to build up Jesus and move Santa down on the priority list. When we get angry, its often that an idol is being threatened. They usually don’t come down easy. Family members will get offended when Jesus is made much of and Santa made less of. Of that you can be certain. But there is a greater cost. We will lose out on joy. I think many forfeit a greater joy this season when we make Santa bigger than Jesus.
Christians are free to include Santa in their Xmas celebration. Just because the Henderson presents come from the Henderson’s, doesn’t mean that I think your kids presents have to come from you.
But I do think that you owe it to your self and your kids to talk Jesus up MORE than you do Santa. Try to see how often you mention Jesus and how often you mention Santa. Who gets mentioned more? I do think talking more about Jesus is a non-negotiable (of course this goes throughout the year!).
I’m not fearful of others trying to re-introduce Santa to my three year old. My incredibly awesome Uncle even apologized for it! I’m not worried when people mention it to him. I already see that he has a framework for thinking of Santa. He’s a fun, fat, old dude who comes out around Xmas time each year. But he’s no Jesus.