The other day my three year old Cade and I were going through the grocery store picking out stuff for our neighborhood Christmas party. He had already downed his expected free cookie from the bakery and was in an overall good and helpful mood. He picked up some bagels for me and put them in the cart. Nice work. Nice little helper.
All of a sudden we were ambushed by a “Santa Pharisee.” I heard, “Santa saw you helping Daddy, and I bet you he is going to get you something nice for Christmas! You know, he sees that!”
My first thought was she was stere0typing me. How did she know I wasn’t Jewish? Well not really. But I could have been Jewish, I guess.
What she didn’t know was that we don’t really “do” Santa in our house. Cade had no clue how to respond; in addition to him often even refusing to give a wave-that’s asking a lot! Sure we have a dancing Santa that we have neglected to put batteries in this year. We are not anti-Santa nor are we anti-people-who-are-pro-Santa. But we just don’t talk about him. Connar hears it from everyone else, “What is Santa going to bring you?” We only have so much time so try to ramp up Jesus’ birth as much as possible during Xmas.
But this went further then the normal what-are-you-asking-Santa for type interaction. This crossed into what will you demand/expect in return for your good work?
Cade didn’t know how to respond because he’s three. Connar doesn’t even know how to respond because he knows he’s not real. But guess what, he still loves Christmas. A lot.
Again, we’re not anti-Santa nor do we crusade against Santa. But the more I think about, the more Santa really is a religious figure.
He’s somehow omnipresent or at least omniscient. He rewards good deeds and punishes wickedness by withholding blessings. The only difference between him, Karma, and the standard (not Christian) understanding of God is that Santa dispenses all blessings and curses temporally instead of eternally. Do good and expect blessing. Do bad and expect curses.
Do I really want my kids to do something and then immediately think that they will get a good present? Then they deserve the gift, and it is no longer a gift, it is a wage. Doesn’t that create a sense of entitlement for doing what is simply a good thing to do?
I’m not saying that all parents should break the news to all kids. But making God’s grace a priority in the Christmas season instead of system of rewards-a system that honestly most people never really shake-might be a good place to start.
Perhaps simply talking more about Jesus than Santa would be a good place to start.
Do this and get something good. That’s Pharisaical legalism. Jesus did something good for you when you deserved something bad, so now lets follow him out of gratitude and the joy set before us. That’s grace and the joy lasts a lot longer. Even for little ones.
I’ll never stop being ambushed by people asking my kids about Santa. And that’s OK. I’m not offended. But it does seem like they are talking “religion” when they are talking Santa-at least in the way this lady was. Maybe it will open the door next time to share mine.