I saw a video going around Facebook the other day of Drew Carey speaking at a dinner. He mentioned that he reads the Bible a lot and laughed at how so much of our “Christian” holidays have nothing to do with Christianity. He included examples like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. He then joked by saying, “Why is the Christian religion the only one in the world that needs a mascot to sell their stuff? You don’t see Jewish people out celebrating with the Passover Kangaroo. There’s no Ramadan Rooster.”
Isn’t that true? The truth is, Santa Claus was taken from a fourth century Christian named Nicholas. He was a Bishop in the church who was known for his extravagant generosity. He took Jesus’s command literally of selling everything you have and giving to the needy (even though he was wealthy man). He was persecuted for his faith, imprisoned, and even exiled once.
We have taken the story of a loving man who helped the poor because he loved Jesus and turned him into the poster boy of Christmas commercialism.
Let me preface this by saying I am not against celebrating Christmas. Many say that Christmas is a pagan holiday that we’ve turned into a Christian holiday and that may be true, but I think it’s okay to take a day to celebrate Jesus becoming flesh. You might say that we should do that every day and I would say, yes. However, the Jews had a specific day of the year when they would celebrate God delivering them from Egypt (Passover). But they absolutely still believed all year that God was their deliverer.
I want to put forth an encouragement to future parents who are Christians. Make the decision now to not tell your children the story of Santa Claus that the culture puts forth. You know, the chubby bearded man in a red coat that comes down your chimney with gifts. Here are some reasons why.
1. It’s Lying
To convince your children for years that Santa Claus is real is a prolonged lie. Maybe you say, “But it’s a white lie. It makes Christmas fun.” Is Christmas “fun” really worth it? Because some day you are going to have to tell them the truth…or worse. Someone at school is going to break it to them and they are going to come home in tears and angry at you for lying to them. It doesn’t matter how fun the lie is. If you are not being honest with your children, it is a lie.
2. It’s Bad Parenting
There is a new trend among people to put an “elf on the shelf.” This little guy is a plastic elf that parents put on the shelf of their living room and he is supposed to be Santa’s spy on that child to make sure he/she is being nice and not naughty. Call me old fashioned, but I think parents should be the ones responsible for teaching their children what is right and in love for them, teach them that doing right is what is best for them. That responsibility shouldn’t be delegated to a plastic doofus on the shelf.
3. It Leads to Materialism
Do you know something that I hate about myself? After I open my gifts on Christmas, my inner excitement about Christmas is gone. Even right now, my flesh is not as much looking forward to the actual Christmas day as much as it is opening my gifts. I don’t want to be like that, but our culture has engrained it into me. Christmas is made about gifts.
So, kids (and adults) all expect to get the best of the best for Christmas. Then people are stressed out about having to spend a ton of money for gifts because if they don’t, it will be an awkward Christmas party.
Maybe you object and say that giving gifts is based on the Christmas story because the wise men brought Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Really? The wise men brought 3 gifts to the King of the Universe and so you think you, a sinner, should receive 12+ gifts (that are probably as valuable as those brought to Jesus)?
My question is, if we had never made such a big deal about Santa Claus, would there be as big of a deal on gifts at Christmas? Or would it be a time of people treating each other in a fashion of peace on earth and good will to men? You know, like the final scenes of A Christmas Carol where Scrooge is running around the streets in joy, helping people out?
4. It is Works Righteousness
Let’s get this straight. Jesus came into the world and died because we are unable to fully please God with our good deeds. We are too tainted by sin. So Jesus had to come and be the obedient son who provided a pleasing life to God and now, we get to obey God out of joy, not mandate. This is one of the great implications of the Gospel.
So we teach the opposite of the Gospel when we teach Santa Claus. We teach, “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you are awake. He knows if you been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.” We teach kids that if they are good, Santa will bring them gifts; if they are bad, he will bring them coal. It’s no wonder they grow up thinking that God looks at them with disgust if their Christian walk isn’t 100 percent perfect.
5. Jesus is Enough for Christmas
Christians are big on saying, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” They aren’t very big on going beyond that. They aren’t very big on actually making their Christmas celebration about Jesus. If Jesus is really the reason for the season, why is there more of an emphasis on Santa than Jesus?
We don’t need Santa at Christmas time. We have Jesus. He is more than exciting enough for Christmas. If making Christmas about Jesus takes the fun out of it for you, I am not sure you know him well enough.
Why do children need to have a fairytale about a man who will bring them the gift of toys when they can have the Son of God coming to give them the greatest gift of all: eternal life.
I love the way John Piper put it: “How can we ever think of giving our children a bowl of bland, sugarless porridge when they are offered the greatest meal in the world?”
Santa does not hold a candle to Jesus. Jesus is infinitely greater and infinitely more exciting than Santa will ever even think of being. Jesus doesn’t just see you when you are sleeping and know when you are awake. He knows everything about you and he is always watching you. He is always with you. You can pray to him and have him by your side all the time. He can be the one who guides you through everything you do in life. Santa comes once a year. Jesus is present all year and forever.
If you are a Christian and you plan to have kids one day, make the decision now to not tell your kids about Santa in the way that our culture does. Share with them the faith that Nicholas had in Jesus and why Jesus is better. He is so much better! So, this Christmas, and Christmases beyond, come let us adore Him.
My prayer is that Santa Claus will stand in front of the beauty and awesomeness of Jesus and say, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)