DISCLAIMER. I am not a Scrooge. I enjoy Christmas. I am not opposed to kids and families enjoying the story of Santa, reindeer, trips down chimneys, and Buddy the Elf.
What’s not to love about Christmas?
But I don’t love what we do with Santa Claus.
First, there’s the whole “Santa Claus is real” thing. Why do we keep insisting with our children that Santa Claus is real, even when their young minds see some of the inconsistencies in the story?
Before you scroll down to the comments section and leave a scathing remark that I don’t like children: we did the whole Santa Claus routine when our sons were little… and I plan to do it again when grandkids enter the picture. We had fun with Santa Claus—as a story.
Did I rob my kids of any joy? Far from it. It’s no different than the way we enjoyed The Wizard of Oz without once thinking it was real. I never lied to my sons.
“Dad, is Santa real?”
“He is just a fun story we tell. Now let’s put some milk and cookies by the fireplace and enjoy the story of Santa and his reindeer.”
The thing I really dislike, though, is the way parents use Santa to make kids behave. You know, the whole naughty or nice list.
Consider the words of my least favorite Christmas song:
He’s making a list
And checking it twice
Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
We’ve made Santa a little too godlike.
Because we’ve painted Santa to be godlike and all-knowing, we’ve painted the wrong picture of God. Too many people already view God as a keeper of a naughty or nice list. Be good, go to heaven. Do more bad than good, and you go to hell. Most religions and Eastern philosophies follow that thought, which is why a person has to work hard to make it to heaven.
To be fair, the Bible also calls us to be good to go to heaven, but with one big difference. God calls us to always be good, to never falter or fail. God’s standard is perfection, and it is a demanding standard that far exceeds what any other religion calls for. And it’s a standard we can’t meet. Only the perfectly righteous make it to heaven, and we don’t cut it. None of us.
The good news in all this is God’s love. He knows no one can meet that standard, so Jesus met it for us. That’s the whole point of the cross. He met the standard for us… and took the punishment we rightfully deserve for not meeting that standard.
Scripture calls this justification. You may have heard people define being justified as “just as if I’d never sinned.” (Unlike Santa, Jesus removes us from the naughty list.) But justification carries an additional truth; it also means “just as if I’d always done right.” (Jesus puts us on the nice list!)
In your group, discuss ways parents can help their kids have fun with the story of Santa Claus, without subtly teaching bad theology! Some ideas for discussion are:
- How do we help our kids separate the fiction of Santa Claus from the truth of Jesus Christ?
- What are some ideas to avoid when dealing with the traditions surrounding Santa Claus?
- What are some good principles we can derive from the story of Santa with which we can communicate biblical truth? (Example: the generosity practiced by the historical figure Nicolas).
Lynn Pryor is a team leader for adult resources at Lifeway. He and his wife, Mary, lead a Bible study group for young adults and have survived raising two sons to adulthood. A graduate of Southwestern Seminary, Lynn has previously pastored and served churches in Texas. Read more from his blog at lynnhpryor.com.
When my boys were little, my Grandmother told me not to lie to them and say Santa gave them their gifts, to let them know the real reason for Christmas, but then she said not to give the credit to Santa, but we should take the credit for the gifts we give. I didn’t understand that at the time. I still don’t think we should take the credit for something God provides for us.