I love Christmas–like, deck the halls 'til the beams are sagging, start Christmas carols in October, Clark Griswold, collect dozens of nativities–love Christmas. It's second only to Easter on my list of favorite days.
I always loved it as a child because there was something about the baby Jesus that made me able to identify with Him. “Hey! He's a baby like I was a baby! He's little like me!” He always seemed more understandable to me than “old, grown up” Jesus.
As I grew up and developed a deep love of hymns, Christmas carols quickly became some of my favorites. They're so rich in theology. “Veiled in flesh the godhead see, hail the incarnate deity!” How amazing is that?
Suffice it to say, we make a BIG deal of Christmas in our home, because Christmas IS a big deal. What God did in coming to earth as the Christ Child is the biggest deal the world has ever known. I love to flood our home with light that reminds us of The Light, music that sings of His love, and gifts that remind us of His generosity.
But one thing distinctly missing from our celebrations is Santa.
I know this subject can be controversial, so I'd like to start by saying that while Santa doesn't fit in our home, I believe this is a parenting decision of preference, and not one of morality. I can't stress enough how thoroughly unimportant this is in the grand, eternal, salvation scheme of things.
So, bearing that in mind, with grace for all opinions, I hope you'll let me share how excluding the fat red suit helps us keep our eyes on Jesus during our Christmas celebration.
In the eyes of a child, Jesus can't compete with Santa
We go to great lengths to teach our son that the reason for our festivities is to celebrate the great sacrifice Jesus made for us and the great gift we have been given through His sacrifice. We complete activities like reading the Christmas story in scripture, reading Christmas story books, playing with Nativity sets (our favorite is the Little People one), listening to Christmas music, packing an Operation Christmas Child Box, and working through Truth in the Tinsel.
At 3 years old, this strategy of saturation helps him begin to digest this information that is too big for even our adult minds to comprehend.
God's gifts to us are unimaginably great, but most of them are unseen. And when you put an intangible, unseen gift-giver and His gifts next to one you can see and touch, a child is naturally going to gravitate to the man he can see.
The legend of Santa ascribes attributes to him that are God's alone
The story we all know is of a kind and generous man who travels the world in one night, giving gifts to all. He knows who is naughty and who is nice. He knows where you are even if you're not home. He can see you from wherever he is. He can be in everyone's home at the same time and if there is no way in, he makes a way.
However, God alone is the one who knows all, sees all, can be all places, can discern the hearts of men, can make a way when there is none, and can be outside of time.
For us, it is easier to leave Santa out of the equation so that our conversations with our son about God's holiness and uniqueness are not confused by mentions of a man who sounds an awful lot like Him.
I never want my son to think we lied to him
Eventually, every child must learn there is no Santa. I realize there are ways to incorporate him in such a way that you always disclose that he is not real, but I think for the “magic” to “work,” you sort of have to let your child believe he's real, else why bother?
I never want my child to come to that point where he learns Santa is not real, and wonder if the God we've been telling him about who IS all those wonderful attributes maybe isn't real either. And I never want him to think, “If Mommy and Daddy lied about this, what else did they lie to me about?”
We don't want Santa to get the credit for the generosity we are modeling
We give generously as a model of the generosity God has shown to us. We go to great lengths to give generously to those in need and those we love. We invest time and money in choosing things we think the recipient will enjoy and demonstrate that gift-giving should be an intentional act of the heart.
We want to impart that same generosity to our son so that he gives generously to those around him. Please notice that I said generously, not extravagantly. You can give extravagantly, but you can give generously even on a limited budget.
We want our son to know we give because God gave to us. God lavishes His love on us and gave us the precious gift of His son. We can partake in God's generous nature by giving to those around us.
Assigning Santa as the gift-giver removes our opportunity to model extra generosity to our son, bestowed out of love. I want him to know WE love him grandly and want to be generous with him. In Santa. all he sees is some strange man who comes once a year and gives a bunch of presents for no particular reason.
While nice, that has no eternal lesson.
Santa contradicts God's message of forgiveness
The legend of Santa says that if you're naughty, you get coal, and if you're nice, you get presents. While perhaps a useful tool for keeping your child's behavior outwardly in line, it does not instruct the heart of a child, nor does it communicate God's message of extravagant forgiveness.
Scripture tells us that in confession and belief in Christ, our sins are removed from us as far as the East is from the West, and that God has a short memory. He doesn't dole out his love and generosity to us based on if we are naughty or nice. From the beginning of time, we have all been “naughty” and He has loved us still. We were soul-damning “naughty” and still Christ gave up his own life.
Santa sends mixed messages about safety and manners
We want our son to have good manners, and good safety awareness. In every other context, he knows it is rude to go up to someone and ask them for presents. We want him to understand it is highly unsafe to approach a stranger and sit on his lap. I've never been convinced that adding an “except this time with this big red man” caveat to these guidelines is the most effective, consistent choice.
I realize that our family's way of doing things is not for everyone, and I also realize that there are God-honoring ways to come to different conclusions than we have.
I am so thankful for God's gift of wisdom and of the Holy Spirit to help us discern and decide. How wonderful is He to help us even in “little” decisions like this? He has led us to believe this is the most effective and consistent way to teach our son the things He has for us, and I rejoice that He is faithful to give your family His wisdom and discernment too, as you make choices for your family.
Looking for more Christmas resources? What's in the Bible? has a great DVD (Why Do We Call It Christmas?) that explains the history behind a lot of common Christmas traditions and symbols.