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Being a Christian, it has always puzzled me as to why so many of us celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the way in which we do. Given what scripture says about shepherds tending to their flocks in the fields during the time of Jesus’ birth, odds are that Jesus was born nowhere near December 25, when the evenings would have been cold and rainy in Judea, requiring the shepherds to take cover (Luke 2:7-8). But when questioned about this fact, many Christians reason that the church established the date in order to compete with popular pagan holidays, using the opportunity to re-focus people on The One True God.
Since the Bible doesn’t give us the exact date of Jesus’ birth, this explanation made sense to me. It even seems noble.
However, I still have never felt quite right about keeping up with the Santa charade that is so ingrained in the Christmas holiday. Yes, I understand that Santa is all in fun; and for years we have participated in what largely amounts to an American tradition by allowing our kids to believe that Santa left them gifts under the tree. But as the holiday approaches yet again, I find myself still wondering if we can have fun without placing doubt in the minds of our children about their faith once they learn that Santa is all pretend. My concern is that by so closely linking the celebration of Jesus’ birth with a fictitious character, I’m setting up my children to doubt all that we’ve associated with Christmas, including something as miraculous and hard to believe as a virgin birth.
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I also see how the temporal gifts left by Santa distract my children from the everlasting gift they have in Jesus Christ. Starting well before Christmas, they make their wish lists, revising them every few days. For weeks, our conversations are dominated by I-want’s, I-need’s and what-so-and-so-has. As much as I try to keep the kids focused on the reason for the season, there is no competing with the excitement that surrounds Santa. I mean let’s be honest; we all know who the star of the show is come Christmas morning—and it ain’t Jesus.
But with so many Christians going right along with the whole Santa theme, chalking it up as “tradition,” “part of our culture,” or “reinforcing how Jesus gives us the gift of salvation,” I’ve often felt alone in my concern. Not wanting to be that mom or that family, we’ve continued along with the status quo year-after-year for lack of knowing any solid biblical foundation that warrants kicking Santa to the curb. That is, until now.
While shopping at Target with my two young sons in tow, there was no way I was getting out of there without first making a run by what my little guys consider to be the store’s main attraction—the toy isle. With Christmas just around the corner, the shelves are already stocked full of the latest and greatest that toy manufactures have to offer this season. So naturally, as we came upon their much-anticipated destination, so came the avalanche of requests from my boys as they ran from dump truck to car track, Lego set to Beyblade.
“Mom, look at this!”…“Can I get this truck? PLEEEEEEEESE!!”…“I need this car track. Please. Please. Please.”…“Can I just get one thing? Just one?”
“We are not buying any toys right now. It will be Christmas soon. Maybe you can get some of these things as your Christmas gifts.”
Desiring a little more certainty, my older son fished for a definitive answer. “We can get these things for Christmas?”
“If you are good,” I reminded him, my tone implying that Santa is watching.
As the words “if you are good” left my mouth, I realized just how much playing Santa was diminishing my efforts to build up my children’s faith during the Christmas season. To suggest that what Santa does—bringing gifts to good little boys and girls—is in anyway similar to what Jesus did—freely offering God’s grace to all, while we were still sinners—is to undermine the Gospel (Romans 5:6-8).
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Now before you say I’ve gone off the deep-end in taking this Santa thing too seriously, think about it. Every year, in association with Jesus’ birth, we sing songs with our children about Santa “…making his list and checking it twice,”…“[finding] out who’s naughty or nice.” But Jesus willingly died on the cross so that our sins are not only forgiven, but also forgotten. Through Jesus, the list of our wrongdoings ceases to exist (Romans 3:25).
Our faith, plus good works, do not earn us salvation as Santa reinforces. Rather salvation is offered to us as a gift by faith in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grasping this fact is hard enough to accept all on its own—it’s why there are over 200 Bible verses that repeat this good news. Apparently God knew we’d need to be reminded of this, and often. So why would I ever confuse the issue by suggesting the opposite to my children year-after-year?
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Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I think Santa is evil. As I said, he is fun. But from now on, he won’t be the biggest Christmas influence in my kids’ lives. Instead he has been relegated to the likes of the Chuck E. Cheese mouse, Disney characters and the school mascot—all of whom my kids know are just people dressed up for the fun of it. And as far as Christmas morning goes, my kids will know exactly who left their gifts under the tree—the One from whom all good things come (James 1:17).
So now that I’ve officially become that mom, its time to get creative. Please leave a comment below to share your ideas on how we can revamp our Christmas traditions to make Jesus the main attraction.