A young mom asked me a quesiton about Santa Claus two years ago. Since the Christmas season is now upon us, I thought I'd post it today.
Hi Mike, My husband and I were hoping to get your thoughts on Santa Claus. As a parent and pastor, have you ever encountered children that felt misguided when they learned the truth about Santa Claus? With Santa Claus having such a huge presence at Christmas (the celebration of Christ's birth), we don't want our new son to question the existence of Christ if and when he finds out Santa Claus is not real. Are there any good Christian books or schools of thought (processes to follow) on this subject? As new parents, we over think a lot of things but helping our boy develop a relationship with Christ is our top priority. Thanks for your thoughts. -A Lake Forest Ministry Partner
Awesome, awesome question. I applaud your priorities, and your desire to stay as close to your Shepherd as possible in how you celebrate Christmas. Angie and I enjoyed doing santa claus in our family, and the boys were able to separate that from Jesus. Others have probably read more and thought more deeply about this issue, but I will speak from our experience. Some key things we did:
-Me and angie were a good balance – I tended to play up santa big-time, she wanted to downplay santa – we were a good team, and allowed each to balance the other out
-Santa brought gifts to our house on Christmas morning, but not the biggies – those were from us – santa filled the stockings with fun little things the boys like (santa still brings my high schooler and college sophomore a Star Wars figure annually, and always will as long as this Santa is alive). Santa would usually also bring one toy or decent-sized gift. But the biggies (snowboard, bike, etc) were from us, so santa was sort of a precursor to the main event of family loving each other and loving Jesus by giving one another gifts
-We taught Dylan and Austin the true story of Saint Nicholas every year– that he lived long ago in the 200's, he was the pastor of a church, he loved Jesus so much that he secretly gave presents to boys and girls (look this up, it’s a true story, when angie and I traveled to Turkey several years ago we drove through his hometown where he was a bishop); his spirit lives on; we do the same thing – we love jesus so much that to celebrate God giving us the best present of all – Jesus – we give each other presents just like santa claus did; some people say Santa still gives presents to children at Christmas, because he's so joyful about baby Jesus...
-We were determined for Christmas to be about the birth of Jesus, and feel we succeeded at that. Angie made a happy birthday baby Jesus cake every Christmas, we sang the song to jesus and blew out the candles
-After the Happy Bday Baby Jesus Cake, I would narrate the Christmas story from the Bible while leading the boys to act out the manger scene every Christmas morning with figures (barney and dinosaurs and superheros often made it into the scene, it was a loose interpretation, sometimes involving fights among the various figures, since little boys were allowed to fill in details with their imagination)
-We treated santa like a game. As SOON as they expressed the least bit if incredulity about santa, we treated it like a hide and seek game, or follow the clues. Angie was very good about insisting that we do nothing that could be construed as lying to them. I was very good about extending the fun a couple years without lying or misleading.
-The last couple of years when they asked ‘is santa real’ we encouraged them to watch for clues and decide – then we strategically left clues. Our favorite quote was the year when Dylan was truly suspicious, so we said 'we will help you watch for clues so you can figure it out this year.' Dylan (7, 8 or 9 yrs old, not sure) put together the note from santa on Christmas Day and matched it to our notepad, the way angie had purposefully cut it jaggedly so the two halves fit like a puzzle, and Dylan said ‘Game over mom, you and dad are Santa Claus’
We think Santa Claus is a fun cultural side of Christmas celebrations that can be a healthy part of a Christ-centered Christmas when handled thoughtfully. Romans 14 is a biblical teaching about 'gray areas' of our faith practice like this, that aren't addressed directly in Scipture. Paul's examples there of not eating meat, or observing Old Testament religious holidays apply to many 'disputable matters' among faithful Christians today. That's where I would point you to read as a couple if you continue to wrestle with this issue in your consciences before the Holy Spirit. I also want you to know, Angie and I are good with folks whose conscience, in the Holy Spirit, leads them to not include santa at all. This is not something we would EVER argue about. I hope my answer is helpful! -Mike
Romans 14:1- 4 1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.