It’s that time of year again. Parties, gifts, holiday commercial overload, advertisements trying to persuade everyone to spend money they don’t have, kids whining in the aisles of Walmart and Toys “R” Us. Yes, Christmas! But let’s not forget about the great reason for the season in our time, Santa Claus!
In department stores across America there he is, Santa. He’s smiling on posters, life-size cutouts, or sometimes a paid actor in a suit. In every Christmas themed commercial he’s there. If it’s not him in the TV or radio spot there’s hints of him with his voice, perhaps his elves, sounds of his reindeer-led sleigh jingling through the air or shots of the North Pole. As of recently he’s really taken front and center stage in an attempt to convince children of his greatness. In the latest Macy’s Christmas themed commercial children make their case as to why Santa is so beloved. He brings toys of course but one child proclaims he’s like a thief, sneaking into a house, but not really. Well, that’s cute. Santa, is like a thief, but not really because, well, he brings us things according to our hearts desire. So the idea of breaking and entering is ok. But this isn’t really a surprise is it? Santa and the whole secular appeal of Christmas is enticing because it feeds the flesh. However the soul stays malnourished. And there’s a reason for this. The whole idea of Santa is quite a hellish one. It’s nothing more than an idol and for Christians I firmly believe the idea of Santa shouldn’t even be slightly entertained. Typically Santa is tolerated and sits along side of Jesus, the true reason for the season. We tell our kids Santa isn’t real while allowing them to be enticed in the secular fantasy rife with materialism. Stores and television commercials target our families with crosshairs on our children. Jesus, we earnestly tell our kids, is the true reason for the season. Santa becomes tolerated, yet celebrated. I suggest we stop tolerating Santa, but for reasons typically not addressed.
Works Over Grace
The very idea of Santa seeds works righteousness over grace. As the story goes, there’s a naughty or nice list for everyone and in order to end up in Santa’s good graces, you must make the nice list. The only way to make that list is to maximize the amount of good things you do over the bad things. How many times have you been out shopping during Christmas season and overheard a parent tell their child to quit misbehaving if they want Santa to bring them toys? In fact, some parents don’t even mention Santa. They just threaten their children with a lack of presents in the midst of their child’s period of misbehaving. These attempts merely work to change outward behavior but not the child’s heart. It’s also a sad attempt for the parent to get what they want as well through manipulation. What makes this even worse is it seeds the idea of doing something good, in this case, behaving rightly, in order to get what someone wants. It’s easy to think this isn’t a big deal until we realize that Jesus doesn’t require us to act a certain way in order to receive even the most valuable gift which is salvation. Jesus offers forgiveness and gives this freely despite our sinful behavior. What is called for, is repentance and trust in Him alone. As believers, we know there isn’t a nice list we deserve to be on apart from Jesus. Why would anyone hold children to a standard adults can’t meet? Works righteousness leads people to hell. Why seed that idea within the minds of children on Christmas of all days? Why muddy the water?
Santa Isn’t Even Nice
One argument presented by pro St. Nick fans is Santa and his whole staff deliver the magic in Christmas. And that it is mean to discourage the idea of Santa. However I would argue Santa is in fact the mean one. It is Santa that demands perfect behavior in order to be accepted. It is Santa who rejects children because they don’t live up to a standard adults can’t even meet. It is Santa who keeps score.
Who doesn’t keep score? Jesus. Who doesn’t reject children? Jesus. Who praises children and considers them innocent? Jesus.
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:1-4
“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.” – Matthew 19:13-15
Who died, rose from the grave three days later after defeating death so all human beings could have an opportunity to inherit God’s kingdom? Jesus.
And back to the issue of the mythical magic within Christmas. What Jesus did, not only far exceeds anything magical about Christmas but it was also real. If our children’s eyes light up more for Santa than Jesus, clearly we’re doing something wrong.
Jesus Is Much More Valuable
Jesus came to this earth, incarnated as God in order to save humanity. He arrived in a very non-popular land to live amongst sinners on earth in order to redeem them. The value of His birth cannot be overstated. Nor can His death. Jesus is our Savior, our King, our Master and Lord of Lords. He is God. He was brutalized on our behalf. He was brutalized because of our sins. People go to Hell absent His gift of salvation. How can a Christian even remotely think the idea of Santa is ok? For Christians, who are called to live according to truth, perception should only be perception. Truth however is truth, not what it is perceived to be. Do we really think it’s true that God is ok with the pagan idea of Santa that we as believers have allowed to infiltrate the Christian home because we perceive it to be harmless?
Satan Is After Our Children
Statistic after statistic continues to prove out the struggles within Christendom concerning our children. The world isn’t making it easy and Satan doesn’t play fair.
In this post modern world where children are bombarded with materialism and naturalism, secular induced Christmas shouldn’t be an area where we let our guards down. Christmas isn’t just another holiday. And this isn’t about the dangers of allowing children to or to not experience myths and fables or how the absence of these things could destroy their childhood. This is about Christmas, the single most important event in the history of mankind. Without the birth of Christ we have no death of Christ and consequently no resurrection of Christ. That means no forgiveness of sins by grace. Are we really understanding what was done on that cross if this issue of Santa is just a minor one? I fear as the Church, we may be consumed with mere head knowledge rather than heart knowledge. Again, why muddy the waters and give more ammunition to the world which seeks to undermine the knowledge of God’s existence by mixing myths with truth? In case no-one is aware, God has been kicked out of our country and academia is about the business of telling our children the Bible is in fact, just another myth.
We Are Called To Be Salt And Light
If Christians are willing to compromise Christmas with the idea of Santa and the baggage of works righteous materialism that comes with him, what message does that send to the world? What about Labor Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and others? The secular world upholds the value and meaning of these holidays without an ounce of compromise. Is Christmas a lesser event? When are we as believers going to stop excusing ourselves out of being who we are called to be, while complaining about the state of humanity who knows not our God?
Christmas Needs No Reclaiming
A final point that needs to be addressed is that Christians don’t own Christmas. Christmas in a more general, secular sense that is. Attempting to reclaim Christmas shouldn’t be our goal. Christmas actually predates the birth of Jesus as it was a time pagans held festivals, celebrating the fact that the winter days were becoming shorter. However, there was no established pagan holiday for Christmas. For example, Saturnalia, an ancient Roman festival that honored the pagan deity Saturn, was a weeklong celebration that started on December 17 and ended on December 25. Coinciding with this celebration, the birth of Attis, a Phrygian-Greek god of vegetation was celebrated on December 25. Christmas wasn’t owned by anyone. As believers our aim should not be to reclaim Christmas from pagans, but rather to exclude pagan culture that exists in our day to uphold the importance of the birth of Christ. And the birth of Christ, is a real event that effects all of humanity in very real way.