What Should Christians Tell Their Children About Santa?December 9, 2011
Over the last year I have personally changed my view on Santa Clause, namely, that Christian parents would do well to tell their kids the truth from the get-go. I didn’t come to these conclusions on my own but was challenged, and after thinking it over became more convinced. These views are simply my own, and I’m not going to be legalistic about it. I would like to simply share my thoughts and try to point out some important things that we ought to consider. Let us reason together…
I was listening to a Christian radio station in Seattle today, one I often find exhorting, and the host mentioned that his opinion on the matter is that we should tell our kids that Santa exists. He remembers the fun of it as a kid and doesn’t think other kids should miss out. He also had a balanced view in that we shouldn’t try to control our kids with the idea of Santa, hence, scaring them that he wont give them presents unless they behave, but should welcome it as a fun fantasy.
Here’s the big problems I now have with telling our kids that Santa Clause exists:
1. Santa Clause is a big distraction for adults, let alone children.
With belief in Santa Clause, it becomes embedded in children’s minds that Christmas is about presents, not God’s gift of himself entering into his own creation as promised in order to save man-kind from God’s own deserved eternal wrath upon us lawless sinners. And yes, small children do understand their own sinfulness, the concept of why God would punish sin, and the need for God to live a perfect life for us and die the death we deserve because we are sinful. We are especially sinful from youth, which is why I believe children understand the gospel so well at a young age.
I’ve heard kids articulate the gospel so powerfully in a few sentences than preachers who have been doing it their entire lives. I’ve taught Sunday school many times. We made a man and a cross out of play-do. We raised our fists and pretended we were God as Judge, a perfect judge of lawless sin. We slammed our fists on the table to crush the cross instead of the man, so that the man could be free. I’ve seen it snap in their minds. But why would I all of a sudden then explain to them, “by the way, Santa is real. Behave good or you wont get presents.” Whaaaat?
Santa gives kids mixed messages about the holiday. It confuses them. It compartmentalizes the secular from the sacred. Kids are so busy being self-enticed with presents. They’re so busy believing that this nice, old, Buddha-looking, red pajama wearing guy in the North Pole will shower them with gifts. In turn, they don’t have time for Christ. They mostly want their toys. Then we confuse them even more and give them Santa-Jesus whiplash. All of a sudden they’re forced to attend a tedious church service or read the belaboring nativity passage before opening gifts.
Jesus Christ is viewed as the boring part of Christmas. The God-stuff is the tedious part of Christmas, yet serves some mystical pious purpose that we haven’t really figured out yet. It’s there to self-assure our religiosity so that we can be self-indulging with toys guilt free. The God-stuff is our penance to the selfishness we’re about to commit. Kids become more excited and enticed with Santa than Christ, and all for the wrong reasons. Christ remains vague, boring, vainly repetitive, and Santa ends up beating him on the fun scale.
2. We are actually teaching our kids to believe in a false deity.
Kids write to Santa as though he really exists. It’s almost similar to praying. They’re asking him for things as though he can hear them or communicate with them in a magical sense. How often do our kids pray to God? Are we teaching them to stay strong in their faith, regardless of toys and life going their way? It’s easy to want to contact Santa because he will give you what you want, which is absolutely not the Biblical worldview. The Biblical worldview is that God knows us perfectly, thus gives us exactly what we need, even when it’s painful sometimes.
There are gifts under the tree that say “from Santa” on them, thus the parents don’t get the credit and thanks they deserve. They worked hard for the money to buy those gifts and now some imaginary guy gets the credit? Should we really be allowing him to? Shouldn’t they be raised to know how much their parents care for them, not some imaginary guy?
The kids leave out milk and cookies for him. But the parents secretly eat them to solidify the fun lie. It’s empirical proof to the kids that he “really” exists. But where’s the empirical proof of God? They don’t see his empirical proof anywhere.
When kids finally get to the age when they discover Santa Clause isn’t real are they going to view God just as un-real because the lines have been blurred about who God and Santa are? There is still much residue left over from the Age of Empiricism in our day. This is especially so in most colleges today. Do parents understand the inconsistency of this ideology? If not, once our kids are influenced to only gauge truth via their 5 senses, they will not only stop believing in Santa, but may develop doubts about God.
We make Santa out to be omniscient. We tell our kids that he is watching them and knows if they’ve been naughty or nice. A child’s mind can’t understand which one is really watching them. Is it God, or Santa? Which one is more important? Santa expects them to be “good” and not “naughty”. What does God expect from them, if anything?
Santa will bless you only if you’re a moralist, and puff yourself up into thinking you’re an ideal child. So what if you have an ideal child? An ideal child is not ideal to God, because all are with sin. Santa is only useful for the “ideal” child, yet Jesus is ideal to all people for all are with sin. Are we explaining to our kids the reality of sin? Are we articulating the need for the sinner’s Savior, Jesus Christ? There’s a lot of people who are confused and think they are good people simply because they don’t know the gospel.
Santa may motivate them to “be good” for the wrong reasons. Striving to be good so that you’ll be rewarded is an enemy of the Biblical gospel. As C.S. Lewis rightly says, “God doesn’t love us because we are good, but because he loves us he will make us good”. Rom 5:9 says that “while we were still sinners (=hating God) Jesus Christ died for our sins”. The gospel is where the Judge gets down off of his judgment seat for a moment and gets tortured to death in our place, only to then get back on his judgment seat. This is an act of grace, not because we first loved him, but because he first loved us.
They believe Santa exists and that he cares about them so much he’s willing to actually visit their house. Santa specifically has them in mind. God did something for the “world”. How is that a gift to them directly? They don’t see it as something to them directly. Kids don’t care about other kids being blessed. If Santa blesses anyone, it better be themselves. It’s very selfish. Yet, Christ shows us that because he’s blessed us, we are to bless others. Christ would have us bless even our enemies. Santa and his elves have no concept of that. Santa is only good to those whom “deserve” it, yet God is good to many when really no one deserves it. Thus, Santa offers legalism and makes you earn his gifts, yet Christ offers grace and his gift is free. Santa’s gifts are temporary, yet Christ’s gift is eternal.
3. Going from catering to pagans to being distracted.
Perhaps it once served its purposes that pagan holidays became Christianized in the time of emperor Constantine. Maybe back then it had some good purposes, or maybe it didn’t accomplish much. I don’t know. But looking at where we are today in modern U.S. society, kids are confused because of these mixtures. In fact, professing Christian adults are confused because of these mixtures, so how much more their children?!
Let me jump onto Easter. Kids get mixed messages about some weird silly bunny who is maybe a distant relative of Santa because it likes to give candy and presents too. So when Easter time comes around we celebrate… huh… rabbits? I don’t know. But I do know that kids are excited about this weird silly bunny simply because it gives candy. It could just as well be an arbitrary three-fingered-sloth that gives birth to chocolate offspring. Kids don’t care. They just like candy and are so thankful for the invisible Easter bunny, yet don’t know how to be thankful for Christ’s power. The bunny is in the here and now, but the risen Christ is distant and in heaven.
During Easter, Jesus is arbitrarily coming back from the dead instead of arbitrarily being born. And he’s risen for some vague reason that we’re supposed to think is significant, but can’t quite put our finger on because its also become a vain repetition. Kids are left scratching their heads, and we naively think we understand the Resurrection and that our kids do to because we attend a church service on Easter every year.
I digress. Our kids wait up late for Santa to arrive. They are anxious to see him. How anxious are they to re-visit the wonderful truths of the gospel? Instead of Christ being the center of Christmas by us being in awe of God becoming vulnerable to save us, we make it that time of year where a lesser deity becomes popular.
We lavish our kids with toys that Santa got them, thus he wins. Jesus is just the baby in the manger and he can’t give us gifts. We fail to talk with our children about the profound mystery of baby Jesus, whom is Emanuel, “God with us”! But they do quickly learn that Santa spoils them.
From a child’s angle Santa is blessing them in the here and now, but what Jesus did was so long ago it’s confusing why that matters now. Who gave the better gifts, Santa or Jesus? Kids are told they’re supposed to think it was Jesus, but come Christmas morning they think it was Santa.
The original St. Nicholas seemed to have been a man whom was changed by the gospel. So much so, he would help others. If you look into the story he was a wealthy man and inherited money after his parents died. He would help those in need and tried to do so in secret. He knew he was fortunate, and wanted to return the favor. They were living in such hard times. People had little money, could not marry, and would be sold into slavery unless they could pay their dues. The true spirit of St. Nick was Christ-like, as he gave money to others in secret so they wouldn’t have to be sold into slavery.
Now the irony is that the generous spirit of the original St. Nick is almost lost in the modern Santa. Of course kid’s love the modern Santa. He buys their love. Yet, St. Nick originally did not want anyone to know gifts were from him. He simply wanted to bless people whom desperately needed it, and did so in secret. He did do not do good for goodness-sake, but because Christ blessed him by forgiving his sin and making him a vessel to help others. He did not help others just because they were good, but because they were desperate. He did not hide his identity just because he wanted things to be anonymous, but because he did not seek his own glory. In the words of Jesus, it is more blessed to give than to receive. The King has come to us, and he is a King unlike any other. He has shown us his humility before his reign.