"You better watch out, you better not cry.
You better not pout, I'm telling you why.
Santa Claus is coming to town"
I am 28 years old.
And I believe in Santa Claus.
Seriously, I do.
I adore the entire idea behind Santa Claus and in our house this figure of holiday cheer is a part of our traditional Christmas celebrations. But there is a hot debate among present day Christians whether or not it is appropriate to participate in this folklore fantasy. Some say that to perpetuate the lie of Santa teaches our children that truth is relative and that it is okay to fib for the sake of fun. Some say that it takes away from the true meaning of Christmas, which should be to focus on the birth of Christ.
It is interesting to read the origins of this day that we celebrate every December 25th. Some may be surprised to know that the word "Christmas" is never mentioned once in the Bible. To celebrate the birth of Jesus was never a command given by our God. In fact, the only thing Jesus ever commanded us to commemorate was the Lord's Supper. Christmas is not quite as "holy" as some would make it. The first recording of the "Christ's Mass" was in 1038 and I suppose Christians have been in some way celebrating the amazing miracle of the birth ever since. Unfortunately much of what we celebrate as Christmas has no spiritual origins at all. In fact everything from the tree to the gifts to Santa is some "stolen" pagan tradition that has managed to incorporate itself into the holiday. Or rather, Christianity has managed to incorporate itself into these traditions.
Here's the deal. As Christianity moved west during the crusades and other evangelistic missions, we found that the people of many European countries had pagan traditions and beliefs with holidays and feasts already in place. These pagan festivities included a Winter Solstice festival, a festival to the god Odin, and I am sure others existed as well. It seems that December was a popular time of year for partying. Christians, instead of completely negating these traditional celebrations began to incorporate the story of Jesus into the mix and over time it has become an accepted intermingling "hodge podge" of traditions. I am not suggesting that the Christians just hopped on board and said "let's talk about Jesus too". But it seemed easier to encourage the memorialization of the miracle of Christ at a time when they were already accustomed to celebration. And over time Christmas has become more and more popularly viewed as a "Christian" holiday.
What is my point?
Well my point is that very little of what we "celebrate" is truly focused on Christ. Sure you may read the Christmas story, attend a church play, and sing "O Holy Night". Maybe you participate in advent services, decorate with a nativity scene and encourage sacrificial giving. But the point is that all the other stuff, no matter what correlations we have managed to come up with, has little to do with Jesus. In fact, very little of what we celebrate all year long has little to do with Jesus. A weird stealing bunny has become the hallmark of Easter, a time dedicated to Christ as well. Or what about the other completely secular holidays such as Valentine's Day, Memorial Day, The Fourth of July, and even Thanksgiving. These are holidays that we celebrate and enjoy because they are fun and a lot encourage family time and spreading of love and joy. Some may have origins somewhere else (certainly Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of those who fought bravely) but our society focuses on cooking out, candy, etc on these days. We live in an over-commercialized consumeristic culture that has taken most of the "meaning" from many days of celebrating and made them about what we can do and what we can get. Christmas is no different.
My question? If all of a sudden we have a problem incorporating Santa into our holidays then we should get rid of it all. Why have a double standard or just pick and choose what would make us holy or not? Because honestly, none of it is Christ centered. Maybe you find things along the way that you can relate back to Christ and scripture and that's great but it doesn't mean that it was ever intended as a Christian command or celebration. When we start picking and choosing, it just gets confusing (hey that rhymes). Because if I say that we don't "do Santa" because it's not Christian, then we must take down the Christmas tree because it isn't either. We must cease to participate in the 4th of July fireworks because they aren't Christian. We have to do away with the turkey on Thanksgiving because it's not directly Christian. It just gets messy to start muddling through life that way. Messy and legalistic.
What am I suggesting?
I am suggesting that we focus on Christ EVERY day and make Him a part of EVERY activity of EVERY moment. Scandalous, I know. But think about it... if Christ is a part of your family already then how is it detrimental to allow your children to participate in an imaginary story once a year? Which of course, by the way, there is at least one real person who existed by the name of St. Nicholas who was honestly a Christ follower and gift giver. In my house, I encourage my children to play "pretend". How is that any different than what we do every year with Santa? Well in my opinion, it's not. That's not to say that we heavily focus on Santa, because we don't. He is, however, a part of our family traditions. We scatter "reindeer food" on the front lawn and make amazing sugar cookies on Christmas Eve. But we also read the Christmas story, make Jesus a birthday cake, talk about giving to others, and reflect on the miracle. I guess you can say that we have figured out a way to balance the "pagan" with the "Christian" in our household. Well that doesn't sound good, but I suppose its the truth.
You see when I was saved, God made me a new creation. I'm all His. I'm His when I'm at church, I'm His when I'm out to eat, I'm His when I'm driving down the road, I'm His when I'm doing laundry, I'm His when I'm relaxing with my family. My life is His, completely. Which means when I decorate my house with colorful lights, I'm still His. I'm not disrespecting my God. When I make cookies for a pretend fat man, I'm still His. And that's what I want my children to understand. Not that I'm lying to them or promoting unchristian behaviors but that I'm encouraging them to live with Christ at the center of their lives in everything that they do, so much so that they can enjoy the season, understanding the miracle of Christ's birth and enjoying the beauty of the cheer. I am saved and able to live a life of joy and celebration no matter what I am doing. Christmas is one time of year, in particular, that I can focus even more on the reason behind my joy, Jesus Christ. And in our family we celebrate Jesus with trees, lights, and yes even Santa.
Each family is different and whatever choices your family makes to include or not include certain festivities is your decision. I am not condemning anyone or suggesting that my way is the only "right" way. What I am encouraging is fully thought through actions. Does Santa take away from the miracle of Jesus? I suppose it can. Just the way daily cartoon watching can take our kids away from the truths of God Word. Does putting up a tree make your house "unholy"? I suppose it can. Just the way watching a raunchy movie or TV show can. Life is full of choices that force us to find the "middle road" between our flesh motivated selves and our Christian motivated souls. What you choose to be your "middle road" is up to you.
For my house, at Christmas our middle road includes bells, lights, carols, sugar cookies, candy canes, gifts, advent wreaths, stockings, the baby Jesus, and yes... a bearded jolly fat man.
Maybe I'm a heathen. Maybe you would call me a pagan.
But really, I'm just a happy Christian that enjoys a good story and delicious treats. So whatever you do, do it with Joy. And may everyday be a celebration in your house, a celebration of the gift of Jesus.