Ah, yes, the controversial topic of Santa for Christian parents. The title of the article provokes an emotive response…maybe you feel guilty, with a secret love for the fun of Santa, but questions over whether it’s valid stir in your heart. Perhaps it’s never really occurred to you to even think about the issue – is it such a big deal? I think the Bible has something to say to all of us, and it may be worthwhile to read a little further.
First things first
The most important thing to remember is that this is not a gospel issue. We cannot make laws that aren’t explicit in the Bible. But it is a wisdom issue, and God upholds the call to wisdom as equal as to holiness. So, while in no way linked to our salvation, we have a responsibility to act wisely in how we manage this and every other similar ‘issue’ that arises in community life.
The dilemma and downfall
On Desiringgod.org, John Piper poses the dilemma that when we present Santa as a genuine figure for our kids to believe, we wrestle with the notion of giving them false realities. He asks: “Are we misleading the children in telling them this story as a simple statement of facts?”
We ought to be careful of blurring the line between myth and fact. This is different, he says, from telling our children made-up stories like fiction.
“But foisting on our children an entire fabricated framework for understanding Christmas, which is not true, but which they take to be true, is totally different from helping our children handle as much truth as they can in an age-appropriate way.”
The issue at the heart of it, Piper says, is that we don’t feel the story of Christ can compete without the magic of Santa – and this is where we ultimately go wrong. It’s a diabolical exchange to take Santa for Jesus. We ought to watch out that we ourselves are not bored with Jesus; not to mention telling our children a thread that counters the essence of the gospel. If Santa is all about being good and getting rewarded for it, what of our gospel of grace, not works?
On the flip side
Simon Camilleri is the author of the book, “When Santa learned the gospel”. In his interview with Gospel Coalition, he describes a moment he witnessed between Santa and some children:
“So, who’s been a good boy or girl this year?” All the kids raised their hands and said “Meeee!!” The funny thing was, Simon recalls, when asked, “And who’s been a naughty boy or girl?” they all said “Meeee!!” just as enthusiastically. After an awkward moment, Santa shrugged and said, “Oh well…I guess you’ve tried to be good.”
He saw this as an opportunity to rewrite the gospel story into the tale of Santa. Here was a Pharisee, buying into legalism, with everyone around him nodding to his tune. It has the potential to become undone with the marvel of grace. “Santa is a myth; why not rewrite the myth?” he thought. Click here to watch the book retold in a video clip.
I found the reality was my kids were being exposed to Santa everywhere. Why not take the opportunity to create a new story? One the kids could share; that Santa came to know the real story of grace.
The fine line
Both parties above represent valid arguments. I believe Piper is good in cautioning us against presenting Jesus as the lesser story…the hype should be around the great news of the gospel. So perhaps it comes down to determining how much weight and emphasis we place on him. How do we present him to our children: is he central or on the periphery?
However, if we do include him in our lives, is he an opportunity? Can we work the story to reveal the marvel of grace? And add a touch of magic?
In our home, we include Santa. We use our “Dear Me” advent bag to share the gospel with Santa. Rather than write a list of wants, we try to emphasize that the best news on Christmas is that Santa understands grace. But we do leave moments of magic, with foot prints and a small low-key gift that is not worked for by deeds. Not too much fuss, but with a little fantasy. And above all, Jesus trumps!
It’s November and we can almost hear those sleigh bells overhead; not to mentioning the deafening roar of Christmas consumerism. How will you navigate Santa in your home this year? Watch out; be wise. And let us know your thoughts and comments.