What is your least favorite thing about Christmas? What is it that brings out your inner “Ebenezer Scrooge”? Is it the caroling? The glitter? For me, it is a lot of things though I want so very badly to love all things Christmas. However, being as we’re all in the “Christmas spirit,” I’ll only choose one tradition that I find distasteful to be dragged through the mud: Santa Claus.
Yes, Santa Claus. I know that he’s lovable, that I’m really not, and that you’re already lined up against me, but I just don’t get the whole Santa Claus shtick. I think the lying and cheapening of gift-giving are just too much for me to overcome. Allow me to explain.
I am going to ask you a pointblank, straightforward question. Does Santa Claus exist? Obviously, because we are both reasonable adults, your pointblank, straightforward answer is going to be no. Now, why does your answer change when your child, whom you are to bring up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, asks you the same question? The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a lie as “an intentionally false statement.” Would you tell your child that Santa Claus exists? Do you know that he doesn’t? If your answer is “Yes, I would tell my child that Santa exists,” then, like it or not, you are lying to him or her. I simply ask, how do you, Christian parent, justify this? You may say that it is “all in good fun” or that it’s simply tradition, but what basis does your child have for believing what you say about the Lord after hearing what you say about the non-existent Santa?
Cheapening of gift-giving
The next problem I have with jolly ol’ Saint Nick is that he gives gifts based on merit. If you’ve been “nice,” he’ll give you gifts, but if you’ve been “naughty,” count on getting coal. This completely undermines the very notion of giving gifts, though. When you work all day long, deal with painful and unpleasant circumstances, and are forced to behave a certain way, congratulations! You have a job and are a part of the workforce! However, the paycheck you are given can hardly be called a gift. No, the paycheck is your wage. It has been given to you because you earned it. Christmas presents are not like this. Christmas presents should not be considered “merited.” Christmas is supposedly about giving freely, yet our beloved Kris Kringle stingily refuses to give if children haven’t earned it. It should be self-evident that if you work for a gift it becomes a wage.
Worse than this is the idea that children have been “good enough.” We reason that the kids haven’t been little angels, but they haven’t been little demons either. Because they haven’t gone around this year burning down hospitals and giving puppies cancer, we reckon they’ve been “good enough.” But it should be noted that parents aren’t the only ones making this assertion. Children are as well. They’re belaboring the point in their letters that they tried real hard. Thus, they’re being taught that trying is enough to be counted righteous. Many theologies have been built around this very idea. Since we impose the “Naughty or nice” view of Christmas presents on our kids, and there are a plethora of presents under the tree come Christmas time, we reinforce the idea that our kids really are good and nice. Then, when they approach matters of theology—e.g. Whom God is, biblical anthropology, the need for a Savior—they do so assuming that they are themselves good enough. But, we don’t get to heaven because we are good enough. We get to heaven because we place our faith in the one who is good enough, Christ the Lord.
Why not just give gifts to your children, tell them they’re from you, and do so simply because you love them? When they see examples of love, they’ll be encouraged to continue that tradition instead of dead ones that implicitly deny the gospel. Now, to those of you who do the whole Santa shtick, I don’t hate you. I simply want you to justify why you do what you do.
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
(1 Co 10:31) (ESV)
Soli Deo Gloria.