He looks like a nice enough guy, right?
A friend recently asked me what my family does about Santa. I usually don’t talk about this because it can be such a hot-button topic. As I was answering her, I realized I had learned a lot as a parent about the link between Santa and our children’s spiritual well-being. The older I get, the more God has freed me from my tendencies toward legalism. He has not released me from my firm view on Santa however, and I will tell you why.
At first it was our youthful legalism and perfectionism as new parents that kept us from playing the Santa game. Christmas was about Christ. No discussion. When my husband and I did talk about it, we felt dishonest setting up all the back story that comes with Santa. Also, we knew that we couldn’t do “naughty or nice” based presents. We knew we would give our kids presents regardless of their behavior. We also found that we liked letting them know we had thoughtfully and lovingly chosen their gifts. If it is the thought that counts, the thought was ours, not Santa’s.
My opinion on this doesn’t matter one bit compared to what the Bible teaches. I know it doesn’t say anything about Santa, but if we look at our calling as parents, certain problems present themselves.
We are called to lead our children to their Creator and His plan for being reconciled to Him.
That plan is found in the person of Jesus Christ; a man they can not see with human eyes. We tell them they have to believe and have faith. This is the same kind of talk that comes with Santa. Only one day, they will find out the life-altering, innocence-shattering truth; you can’t really see Santa because he is not real. He couldn’t see you when you were sleeping and he had no idea if you were bad or good. He doesn’t exist. It is easy to see how their childlike faith in an invisible Jesus, an extremely precious treasure, can be confused by this revelation. Atheists already use this argument to plant doubt in the minds of whoever will listen. The posters in this article are produced by Atheists and they would exploit any angle to “free” your children from the religion you have “brainwashed” them with. To me this amounts to a foothold for the Enemy.
Now for the naughty or nice issue. If you are trying to raise your children to respond to the
Gospel of Jesus Christ, this issue is so important. We are saved by grace through faith. Grace means the gift of God is not earned by behavior nor prevented by bad behavior. It is merely accepted or rejected by humans but always freely given to us, while we were yet sinners! Connecting your approval of your child to your child’s behavior teaches the exact opposite. Both you and God love your child unconditionally. The rules of Santa fly a huge sleigh right in the face of all we want them to believe. Grace is so hard for humans to grasp anyway. The concept of grace is important enough to let it shape the details of how you raise your children. This is especially true for a holiday that is supposed to be about the birth of Jesus and God’s plan to extend his amazing grace to us.
Deception on the Shelf
This rant must be extended to the Elf on the Shelf. Do you really want to teach your children that the eye-in-the-sky is watching them and Christmas is all about whether it sees them do good things or bad things? Do you want their motivation for being good to be the promise of presents or the fear of less presents? Have any one of us ever given our child a lump of coal? You know their behavior will not affect your list or it certainly shouldn’t. Gifts are unconditional. That is why they are called gifts, not rewards or wages. Teach them this biblical economy and you are sharing the unconditional love of God. It’s really beautiful when you think about it.
I know it is easy for me to say all this when I never started pretending about Santa in the first place. If you already play Santa, prayerfully consider how you can do it without the conditional presents and the convincing tricks. We do the Tooth Fairy, but very tongue-in-cheek and with a wink. Everyone has always known she is me because she falls down on the job so often. I don’t deceive them but we play at it. So, let your elf on the shelf get into mischief in the night if you want (by the way, why doesn’t he have to be good?) but don’t let him be their conscience or the family stalker.
If you are just get started with your Christmas traditions, consider not doing Santa at all. The only real trick to that is making sure they never tell other children. That’s not their job. Above all, keep Jesus the focal point of your Christmas. My mother always hosts a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Eve. This is a great way to have fun and point out to your children that the Giver of all good gifts lets them blow out the candles and open the presents on His birthday. He’s just that awesome. You can not go wrong driving home that message while you are raising His child.
In keeping with the title of this post, please share your views on Santa and how you work it out at your house. Don’t hold back your opinion but be good….for goodness sake.