For a long time I went back and forth over what we should teach our kids about Santa Claus. There are those who completely embrace the idea of Santa and go so far as to make up things to tell their children that are completely untrue. I think it’s one thing to tell your kids about Santa and that he makes their presents and delivers them, but it’s another thing to make up wild tales for them to believe. I’ll tell you my problem with that in just a minute.
Then there are those people who toss out the idea of Santa completely and tell their kids from an early age that the big man isn’t real. They forbid their kids to have anything to do with Santa-related activities or movies, and rain on every parade, sometimes crushing their kids’ innocent beliefs in a fairy tale. I have a problem with that too. Speaking for myself personally, I know that my kids didn’t learn about Santa from their mom or me. They chose to pick up the legend from somewhere else, even though we had never told them that presents come from anyone but us. Even though they know those presents come from us. Sometimes they’re with us when we buy their presents and yet they’ve chosen to believe that Santa delivers toys. I’m not going to argue with them just yet. I’m going to use this teach them the truth. But it requires dialogue.
In my opinion, Santa gives us our first opportunity to instill a sense of belief in our children that will later set them up for a response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I say let them believe that a jolly old man generously gives gifts to every boy and girl in the world (except those that don’t celebrate Christmas). But do it to show grace, not to teach moralism. And that’s where my big problem lies. Moralism. The practice of spending more time trying to be good than on trusting in Jesus for righteousness. Moralism leads to poking other people in the chest and telling them to straighten up instead of telling them how much God loved them to send the free gift of His Son to die for them even though they can’t be good. Moralism leads Christians to believe that God no longer loves them if they mess up. That they have to be good at all times because He’s watching and waiting for them to do something bad (You’d better watch out!)
I hear songs like “Santa Claus is coming to town” or others that insist that children be perfectly behaved or they won’t get any gifts and I cringe. No wonder so many people confuse God with Santa, thinking they have to earn the free gift of Jesus. No wonder people think they have to be “good” to get into heaven, despite the Bible’s teachings that we can’t be good enough. Instead of teaching my kids that Santa is watching them to see if they misbehave (a view many have of God) or that some elf on a shelf is reporting back their behavior (creepy really), I’m going to point my kids to Jesus through the Santa legend.
I’ve decided to let my kids have a belief in Santa since they already do on their own, one that sees him as a generous and kind man, full of grace, who gives gifts to ALL children, whether or not they deserve it. I tell them that it’s silly to think that you can ever be good enough all the time to earn those gifts. I ask them if they ever do bad things and when they say yes I ask them if they think it’s so wonderful that they would get presents anyway. Of course, they do.
Then I say it’s just like how God loves us. He love us even though we don’t deserve his love. He gives us the free gift of Jesus even though we could never be good enough to earn it. Then I make the final point that even though God wants them to obey and to be good, He loves them even when they don’t. Instead of instilling the fear that God will no longer love them if they mess up, I let them know that there’s nothing they can do that’s outside the grip of grace. And I got to that point by starting with Santa. So to me, Santa is a good thing in that regard. The moralism part…not so much.
I’m not passing judgement on anyone who does an elf on the shelf or tells their kids to be good because Santa is watching, just offering up a suggestion as to how to point to Jesus through the character of Santa. It’s an opportunity we shouldn’t miss.
So now Merry Christmas to you and yours and may you experience the truly free gift of Jesus being sent for us, though we could never deserve Him by being good.