He is omniscient; he knows all. He judges us according to our deeds. He is outside of time, and he never ages. He is able to perform miracles, and controls the nature of natural things. He lives in a place that is inaccessible to humans. He gives us good gifts, and desires us to ask him for them.
The attributes I just described could easily be attributed to God. But it’s not God I’m talking about here. Let me describe the aforementioned attributes in a more particular way. He knows when you are sleeping; he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake. He can lead a team of deer to fly in the air. He can visit every house on the planet in a single night, leaving all the children wonderful gifts. He lives at the North Pole. He is, of course, Santa Claus—and brace yourselves, because he’s not real.
I know that I probably just shattered the innocence of someone reading this, much like I did in college when I told a roommate that professional wrestling wasn’t real. He didn’t believe me, and you don’t have to either. However, the discussion that follows assumes that you’re aware that Santa is a sham.
If you’ve been raised in the United States, you undoubtedly know the drill. Children are given the story of Santa, who drives flying reindeer and slips down the chimney to deliver them presents on Christmas Eve. When I was young, I believed in Santa and had great fun with the idea. I would always leave milk & cookies, and I heeded the warning that Santa would pass me by if I was not asleep. I still usually got what I wanted for Christmas, even if I had been not-so-good during the year.
The analogy with which I began this post is my primary motivation for rethinking my stance on the issue of Santa Claus. When my wife and I have children, we will not portray Santa Claus as real to them.
Let me explain. I see nothing wrong with telling the Santa Claus story while making plain that the story is myth, with no reality to it. There is in fact some reality to the St. Nicholas tradtion, as a former professor of mine, Dr. James Parker, has aptly shown in this Baptist Press article from a couple of years ago. This story of the Christian leader who stood up under pesecution is never told. The story that our secularized society gives us is a superman who has been thouroughly sanitized of any Christian meaning. In fact, Santa Claus has now come to replace any Christian meaning that Christmas has in our society.
My fear, which admittedly is completely unproven scientifically, is some people develop the expectation that the reality of God will pulled out from under them, just like Santa was when they were young. Think about it; kids are told to believe in the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus only find out later that they were all part of an elaborate deception. What are people to think of God? Will the rug be pulled out from under him too?
Given that Santa has such god-like attributes, the dangers of portraying Santa as real are even more present. I propose that the Santa Claus story, if told to children, should treated wholly as myth, with a wink to both adults and children—and should be pushed far to the side of the Christ who should be central at Christmas. Better yet, replace the secular Santa Claus with the Christian St. Nicholas, an example which kids actually can follow without getting stuck in the chimney.
UPDATE: Jason Steffens at Antioch Road has a good blog entry up about this subject. Check it out.
1 thought on “This Year I’ll Get a Lump of Coal”
Back when my children were small and believed in Santa, I worried and wondered if they really understood the real meaning of Christmas.
We had always made sure they knew why we had Christmas. We had told them about the birth of Jesus and why he was born, but did we put to much emphasis on Santa and the commercial part of Christmas? Did they really know it was about Jesus Christ?
One Christmas morning my children were looking at all the toys “Santa” had brought them and I was looking out the window because it was snowing. When I turned around, there was my 6 yr. old son surrounded with all his toys from “Santa” on his knees with his little hands folded under his chin thanking God for his gifts. Not Santa! God!
He knew about Santa, but he knew all good things come from Jesus whose birthday we were celebrating.
That 6 yr. old is now 29 yrs old and will be graduating with a Master of Divinity in Theology from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville , Kentucky this Friday morning.
So you see Jared, it doesn’t hurt to have fun with children and let them have some fun as long as you tell them the real TRUTH!
Which is that Jesus Christ was born so that he could die for all our sins.
And Yes Jared there is a Santa Claus!
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