To Santa or Not to Santa, What Are Your Thoughts…
by Pastor Lee Hemen
December 8, 2008
Recently on Revelife a post was made about “Keeping Christ in Christmas and How Santa is Jesus’ Friend.” Some of the responses were rather odd to say the least. But what do you think? Should we allow Santa Claus to be a part of our Christmas tradition or not? My view is that far too often Christian hyperventilate over really silly stuff. The “truth” of Santa is one of them. Rather than out and out lying to a child in the rather odd way the author does by saying that “Santa is Jesus’ friend and helper. The story goes that Jesus is very busy commanding angels and watching over us and doing all His Jesus stuff, so He asks people to help out with His work sometimes,” why not just go with the flow of what the child understands at his maturity level? You know what, most kids learn at their own pace who Santa really is or is not. If not, you have not taught your kid to ask, who, what, when, where, and why. You know, to critically think!
Make believe is not harmful to a child if it is kept in perspective. Too many children watch way too much TV or play way too many video games and have absolutely no imagination. Do not believe me, ask a room full of youngsters to make believe all on their own and see what you get without any prompting from you. (My wife recently did this with 3rd through 6th graders and was shocked at how they could not do this simple task on their own.) And, contrary to what you may think, encouraging imagination can be godly and a wonderful thing. Far too often well meaning believers think they are doing their child a service by forcing them to “grow up.” They become rather odd little automations of Christianity that can spout Bible verses but have little compassion or true godly obedience. They fear God rather than also being in love and in awe of Him.
Now do not misunderstand me, I am not saying to absolutely LIE to your child and say Santa is real. However you can teach them that there was a godly man who loved the Lord and young people, and that he was so respected by those whom he came in contact with because of his Christian witness that they remember him to this day as Santa Claus. (Santa Claus is a derivation of Saint Nocolas.) In fact, after a few years when she was older, we told our daughter this about Santa and that folks began to remember him in differing personas as Saint Nick, Papa Noel, Santa Claus, Black Peter and such. We began to fill in the gaps, so to speak. It became a beautiful story to relate to her how a godly person can make such a huge difference and affect so many people through the ages. Children are not stupid. She had already figured it out on her own, especially after a friend told her so! She grew up a strong Christian woman and we still read “The Night Before Christmas” and the verses out of Luke as part of our family tradition.
I still fondly remember watching as a six year old from my bedroom window my father and uncle crawl across our roof placing deer prints and sled marking in the snow and carefully removing their own foot prints so we would think Santa had been there. I am now a Baptist pastor who loves the Lord.
If we truly wanted to do away with all the “harmful” stuff of Christmas and be absolutely truthful to our naive children we would not celebrate Jesus’ birth in December, we would not have angels with one set of wings decorating our trees, halos, drummer boys, Christmas trees, garland, wreaths, nor the three wise men in any nativity scene. Yule logs would be out as would eggnog. In fact, we would tell them that most of Christianity did not ever celebrate the birth of Christ to the extent we do now until just a few hundred years ago. None ever gave gifts and that in fact the public celebrating of Christmas was outlawed in England and here in Colonial America because it became a time of debauchery and drunkenness! Now, there is truth telling!
Understanding a child’s relationship to their world is important. If a child believes in Santa it does no harm to them spiritually or emotionally if it is done with grace and wisdom. What a three to six year old believes is far different than what an eleven or twelve year old believes and understands. In fact, I have had to do some serious counseling with teenagers and adults who were raised in such restrictive Christian homes that their view of God was totally skewed as small children. Remember that Jesus did not always tell the truth nor did He allow others to do so either. (Now do not get excited and claim I am saying Jesus is a liar, because I am not.) Why? Because He waited for the proper timing. Do not believe me? See Matthew 16:20; 26:21-22; Mark 3:12; 7:36; 8:30; Luke 8:56; and John 7:4-10. This is a good thing for parents to remember as well. The proper timing and being wise about how and when you teach your child the “truth” about certain things. Am I saying not to teach your child the truth or to tell the truth? No! However, there have been children who have been emotionally and spiritually harmed by well-meaing Christians who taught very young children about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. They came away with a skewed view.
If you want to raise your children with the complete truth of who Santa is go ahead, however, if a child has a childish belief in Santa it would do them no serious harm. Rather, begin to educate them in a godly manner who Santa truly is as they can understand it. Little children think literally and sometimes we can take away their ability to be children by being too rigid, thinking we are being godly when in fact it is us who has the problem and not the child at all. God is bigger than Santa and as a pastor and parent I have seen this to be true in every case where the child is taught consistently, compassionately, and in a manner where they can understand it.
What do you think?
This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.