Well, my plan to write a lot over December failed miserably. It turns out that having term papers to write and finals to prepare for took a lot more of my time than I was expecting. Coupled with preparing our new family for the Christmas season led to Epic Theology taking a back seat for a few weeks. But we’re back, and hopefully on track now.
Many devout Christians that I know struggle with the idea of Santa Claus. As new parents, they have to decide if they will raise their children with Santa Claus or without. Many feel that Santa is the symbol for the commercialization of a holiday that is meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. To further propagate this de-Christianized Christmas by making the holiday about a fat man in a red suit jars with their faith. Yet, to be the only 8-year-old in class who doesn’t believe brings its own challenges. So, how do we plot a course through this maze of Christmas turmoil?
I was raised believing in Santa Claus, but he was never the main event of Christmas. I was told that St. Nick worked for Jesus, bringing presents to people on Jesus’ birthday because Christ was in heaven and didn’t need any presents. I was excited to open presents on Christmas day, but I was also excited about the children’s pageant at church or the lighting of the advent wreath at home. Even as a child, I knew that Santa, while fun and exciting, was not as important as Jesus.
But is there any real merit in the jolly old elf? I think so. Santa is a symbol for far more than Coca-Cola and shopping malls. He is a symbol of hope, joy, and generosity.
There is something incredibly magical about the hope that someone loves you enough to sneak into your house to leave you exactly the present you were wishing for. The idea that someone you have never met face-to-face has your happiness in mind, and spends all year preparing for it, gives a glimpse into how we are loved by God. He has the best gifts ready for us, and is willing to come to us to deliver them. I think we sometimes lose how amazing that truth is, but we can relearn by watching children with Santa Claus.
It is very easy to allow the joy to be sapped out of the holiday season. Gifts to buy, gifts to wrap, gifts to transport across the country, along with parties, events, games, and relatives, all add up to a lot of effort over Christmas. I know many people who allow themselves to get incredibly stressed right up to Christmas Eve, and then expect the magic of the day to take over. This is silly. We need to realize that joy, the kind that is symbolized in the jolly, round tummied Santa Claus, is a choice that we can maintain throughout the season. If all of December is a joyful event culminating in the magic of Christmas Day, imagine how much less stress would enter into our lives.
Finally, Santa reminds us each year that it truly is better to give than to receive. Watching the faces of loved ones as they open the gift that I have spent time and resources to get for them is such a blessing to me. Even the Bible affirms this truth: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:35). Christmas is the time where we should be thinking not about ourselves, but about others. We bake and cook and shop to please those we love. And hopefully, we can go beyond this to help those we may not love, but need our help anyways: the homeless, the hungry, the noisy neighbours next door. Our generosity, like that of St. Nicholas, and Jesus Christ, should have no bounds.
In the end, what will we teach our son about Santa Claus? We haven’t decided yet. I am not opposed to those who decide not to join in with the myth of Santa, especially for religious reasons. But I know that Christmas magic will be palpable at our house. We aim to blend the sacred and the celebratory to give Jesus Christ a birthday that is memorable each year. Christmas is my favourite time of year, with Santa serving the Lord Jesus right beside the rest of us.
How about you? What do you teach your kids about Santa Claus? Do you think Kris Kringle can be redeemed for the faithful? Chime in!
Merry Christmas to all of our readers who celebrate Christmas, and Happy Holidays to all those who do not!