Several eager little faces listened closely as I told them the biblical account of Jonah, the man who was swallowed by a fish after refusing to do what God told him to do. “Jonah tried to run away from God, didn’t he?” Little heads bobbed up and down. “But he couldn’t get away from God, right? Because God loves us so much, He is always with us, and He knows what we’re doing –”
“Just like Santa!” The words burst from the cherubic cheeks of a sweet little girl, so excited about Christmas that she could barely contain herself.
Is there any correct reply to that statement?
“Yes, just like Santa, God is something we want you to believe in as a child and then perpetuate the myth as an adult for all the children in YOUR life.”
“No, Santa’s just pretend. Your parents have been lying to you.”
I quickly continued with the Sunday School lesson, doing my best to minimize her assertion, because here’s the thing: I can’t stand lying to kids.
Our kids have always known the truth about Santa — he’s a myth, based on the stories of St. Nicholas, a benevolent man who had a soft spot for giving gifts to young men and women in need. But when I tell other parents that, they invariably say “But who gives them presents at Christmas?”
Not surprisingly, WE do.
Our kids know that Mom and Dad have worked hard to make the money to buy the gifts that they open on Christmas morning. They also know that we give gifts regardless of the behaviour of the recipient because we love each one of them unconditionally. And that’s because we’re imitating the love that God has for each of us: “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us …” (Rom. 5:8), and in doing so, gave us the ultimate gift of eternal life.
We’ve also taught our kids to respect the beliefs that other kids have. If someone chooses to believe in Santa, that’s okay, and we don’t need to tell them otherwise.
We choose to parent one way, and many other parents choose to parent another way. I’ve never taken it to heart. Until this past Sunday.
When we parents tell culturally sanctioned myths to our kids, and then expect them to believe what the rest of culture has deemed mythical, why are we surprised when kids choose not to believe the faith they’ve been raised with? We’re surprised when kids hit 13 or 16 or 19 and they stop going to church, they stop reading their bibles, and they equate belief in a Savior to belief in the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny.
That’s why my kids don’t believe in Santa Claus. We have always wanted to be a family where honesty and truth are paramount. When one of our kids asks where babies come from, they don’t get “The Stork brings them.” for an answer. When we encourage them to follow rules, or to behave in class, it’s not because “Santa’s watching”, as if to say that any other time of the year, it would be fine to misbehave. They know that the history in the Old Testament is real. They know that when the Bible says that the earth was created much less than 4.5 billion years ago, that they can trust that, no matter what other people say. Because they’ve always been given the truth, and they know that they can trust Mom and Dad to not mislead them or tell them some made-up fairy tale just to delay the inevitable truth of reality.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “I was raised to believe in Santa, and I turned out fine.” and “What about the Spirit of Christmas?”.
I hear you, I really do. And I got presents from “Santa” every year too when I was a kid. But why make it harder to believe in the God who created the Universe, when everything in our society already attempts to reduce Him to mythology?
And the Spirit of Christmas? Isn’t that found in the true meaning of Christmas — the fact that we’re actually celebrating the birth of Christ? The birth of the Son of God, who was made human, and who was born in a barn for the sole reason of providing a way for us to spend eternity in Heaven after this life, instead of suffering eternal punishment as a result of our own sin. THAT’S a reason to celebrate. Not because of some larger-than-life image of a reindeer-flying bearded man in a red plush suit.
By all accounts, Saint Nicholas was a man who believed what God’s Word says about Christ. It’s very likely that one day, we’ll meet him in Heaven. What will he think about what we’ve done with Christmas?
And one day, we WILL meet Jesus.
What will HE think about what we’ve done with Christmas?