Jesus vs. Santa?

Thankfully, two things came clear to me early in my preaching career. I don’t remember if I was told these things, or they just came to me in a rare moment of clarity, but here they are:

1) Never preach with someone’s face in mind. In other words, don’t write or deliver a sermon because somebody has been boneheaded enough to give you the perfect illustration of how not to live, and…

2) A pulpit is not a soapbox. Use your privilege of having an audience to preach the gospel, not to rant on topics that just bother you.

Fortunately, a blog is not a pulpit, except inasmuch as I, being a pastor and a preacher of the gospel 24 hours a day, must be ever mindful of the weight of my words. Just like everybody else, though, when you come right down to it. Anyway, I am about to break rule number two, while not breaking rule number 1, though if what I’m about to say about rule number 2 gets your goat, you may think I’m breaking rule number 1 and talking about you. I’m not. I promise. So, if the shoe fits, don’t kick me with it.

I was a sophomore in college (30 years ago), when I first heard another believer say something like this: “When I have children, I won’t tell them about Santa Claus at Christmas, because when they grow up and find out I lied, they will think I lied about Jesus, too.” I had to think about that one. And, to be honest, as I thought about it, it made pretty good sense to me at the time. Not so much anymore.

Before we go any further, let me say that I am not advocating a pro-Santa or anti-Santa stance in this blog. That is absolutely up to the sensibilities and convictions of every parental unit and/or team. What I am about to refer to, though, is what I consider a not-good-enough reason for throwing Santa under the bus.

Years later, as my wife and I began to have children, we decided to let our kids experience the fun and magical atmosphere of Christmas, including Santa, while making absolutely sure that they knew, right up front, without a shadow of a doubt, that the reason for Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I understand, however, that in the minds of many anti-Santa advocates, that isn’t good enough because it skirts the issue. The issue for them, it seems, is that by doing so, I run the risk of my children equating Jesus with Santa Claus, and thus throwing away Christianity because if one is a myth, the other must be, too.

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the problem. If my faith in Jesus Christ as the risen, loving, redeeming, ever-present Son of the Only Living God looks the same to my children as my few-weeks-a-year pretend belief in a jolly old elf in a red suit who delivers toys to good boys and girls, then there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with my faith! If my children don’t see me living out the realities of a life in the Kingdom of God every day of every year, then I have reason to worry. The fact is, though, my children don’t see me lift my hands in worship to Santa every single Sunday. They don’t hear me pray toward the North Pole when we thank God for our daily provision. They have never watched me weep while telling an audience of listeners about the unbounded, beautiful, life-changing grace of St. Nicholas. But they have seen me do all those things with Jesus as the subject- all year long. Consequently, my kids never- not once, not even CLOSE- saw Jesus and Santa in the same stadium, much less on an even playing field.

So here’s my parting shot: If you want to forego the Santa Claus thing and concentrate on Jesus at Christmastime, by all means, be greatly blessed! But if you skip Santa because you don’t want to confuse your children about Jesus, you better take a good long look at how real Jesus is to you the other eleven months of the year.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Jesus vs. Santa?

  1. Jaclyn

    Very well said!

  2. Well, there it is. My favorite blog post of yours to date. :)
    Nicely done!

  3. kathy starling

    As a mommy of 4 small ones, who has chosen NOT to include Santa in our Christmas celebration, I feel I have to comment. It never occurred to me not to include Mr. Kringle b/c of our children equating us with liars for telling them an untruth. But it did occur to me that in these days all things Christ have been sucked out of our culture, so I have to be a little proactive and protective to teach them about the miracle of Jesus’ birth and why we celebrate and call it Christmas. The truth of the matter is that I have never mentioned Santa one way or the other to my kids and they still know all about the grandfatherly figure from movies, books and commercials. So, whether you choose to include Santa or not he is always there, but by not focusing on him it keeps everything in perspective. I will say at some point we did a report on Saint Nicholas and taught our children all about where Santa gets his origins.
    I grew up in a home where Santa was part of Christmas, but at that time our teachers still led prayer in schools and taught the Nativity during story time. Malls and grocery stores decorated with nativities and openly declared the good news of Jesus’ birth. Things are so different today for our children. People are honestly offended by the words “Merry Christmas, and want it changed to Happy Holidays”. I choose to use Christmas as an opportunity to let our light shine before all men and I don’t want Santa to share any of the spot light. No, it would not shake my children’s faith nor taint their perception of me as being truthful if we did include the jolly old man in our celebrations, but if all you are looking for is a little bit of magic to include in your children’s childhood there are soooo many other ways to include that magic year round.

    • Well said, Kathy, and well balanced. Thoughtful and intentional parents like you and Bill obviously don’t represent the mindset I referenced in the blog. There are very good reasons to choose as you and many others have. What I was sounding off on is the fear that children will equate Jesus with Santa. Again, if that’s a possibility in any family, those parents missed a much bigger point a long time ago. Thank you for adding so much to the discussion, Kathy!

  4. kathy starling

    I thought you might enjoy a little spice!! ; )

  5. Nobody actually “discusses” anymore! This is so nice… :)

  6. Haley Cink

    well said PM, I was thinking about this just this morning, because as Brayden is getting older I know that conversation will be coming up soon, and at first the thought that is the main point of your blog briefly crossed my mind and in the same thought the same conclusion you came up with was the same for me also.. :) Jesus is our constant, Santa only comes once a year! :D and it’s cool too see Brayden’s drawings from school with Santa’s house at the North Pole, with the tree, fireplace and of course the Nativity scene with Jesus, because, like Bray says, Santa knows what Christmas is all about! Jesus! You rock PM! and so does the rest of our Deep Sheep family!!!!! Much love from the CINKS!

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