One of the most anti-Christmas things you can do as an American during the Christmas season is bypass Santa. It does save time at the local mall as we walk past the long line of families waiting for their opportunity to pay for the awkward Santa Claus photo with their children, but beyond that—it creates tension at times with close friends and family members. Why have we decided to say no to Santa?
Is Santa Sinful?
My wife and I both grew up in homes where Santa Claus was the normal talk of the home at Christmas time. We both took pictures with the real Santa who was validated by a real white beard in the local mall. While Santa was very much apart of our Christmas celebrations—we both were raised in the context of Christian homes where the gospel was emphasized. So, is the practice of Santa Claus sinful?
The answer to that question depends on several key factors. Is Jesus replaced by Santa in yearly Christmas festivities? Is the emphasis placed on materialism and selfish greed rather than the gift of God’s Son for the salvation of his people? Are God’s non-communicable attributes given to a mythological character who rides on a sleigh behind flying reindeer? Are you lying to children about Christmas and expecting them to believe you about the incarnation once they realize it’s all a friendly game? These questions must be addressed fully and the heart of each person must be carefully examined in order to determine if a family is sinning with Santa. Only God knows the heart and true motive of each person.
Santa Is Not God
The theology of God should never be attributed to the fictional character known as Santa. Consider the words to the popular song that every child knows—and learns to recite on a frequent basis as the days draw closer to December 25th.
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
While God is not limited by time, geographic location, and while God knows all things at all times—that cannot be said of a mythological character known as Santa Claus. God is able to discern the thoughts of men (Luke 11:17), but no person possesses such abilities. Be careful not to confuse children by placing a jolly fictional character on the same level as the deity of Jesus.
Furthermore, the theology of Santa is quite troubling. The idea depicted by the fictional jolly man with a large white beard is that he encourages an empty works based pattern of life that says, “be good for goodness sake.” This is not the gospel and it certainly can confuse children unintentionally in the spirit of Christmas festivity.
The inconsistency of Santa is likewise troublesome. The most disobedient child who has been threatened with a bag of coal in the place of toys for Christmas suddenly receives a free pass by Santa—who like an aged old grandfather rewards such children with their entire wish list on Christmas morning. What does this say about Jesus—the righteous Judge?
Christmas Is About Something Greater than Santa
Last year, Christmas day fell on a Sunday. Sadly, many churches cancelled services because their members didn’t want the church services to conflict with their Christmas celebrations. That’s a sad picture into how professing Christians push Jesus off into the shadows in order to celebrate Christmas. What exactly are we celebrating if we have to cancel church in order to celebrate Christmas?
While my wife and I both have many good memories surrounding Christmas morning with gifts from Santa—we’ve decided to go a different route for our family. No, we’re not Jehovah’s Witnesses. We’re Christians who celebrate Christmas. We want our children to be thrilled with Jesus—not Santa. We want our children to look forward to celebrating the birth of our Savior, so we’ve decided to forego the whole Santa game. While we do provide gifts, we have told our children they’re from us as we celebrate Jesus’ birth. We gather together, eat cake (or cupcakes) and sing to Jesus. While it may be possible for Christians to engage in the Santa traditions without sinning—we’ve made a decision to bypass Santa for several key reasons.
We want to emphasize the birth of Jesus and place an intentional spotlight upon the celebration of the incarnation (Luke 2). The greatest miracle in the history of mankind is the moment when God took upon himself human flesh. God became a man and dwelt among his very creation (John 1:14). This is the kind of stuff that we find in story books and fictional movies—but even then no story or movie plot can compare to the story of God’s gospel.
The troubling statistics about teenagers who walk away from the faith should be troublesome to us. In 2001, the Southern Baptist Convention released statistics stating that 70-88% of their youth walk away from their faith after their freshman year in college. In 2006, Barna Research Group stated that “Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years.” These numbers aren’t getting better and we must address the problem.
While I don’t believe the problem rests on the shoulders of Santa Claus alone, I do believe that inconsistency as Christian parents can be a chink in the armor that Satan uses to destroy the faith of children. Teaching children to engage in little white lies can be the seed of doubt used to question the reliability of the Bible and the story of God’s gospel. We want our children to believe us—always. So, that’s one reason we don’t do Santa in our home. We’ve made the hard decision from day one to tell our young children that Santa isn’t real (or at least the mythological figure known to live in the North Pole).
We want our children to look at the story of a jolly old man who visits us on a red sleigh behind Rudolph and a host of other flying reindeer and find no comparison to the story of the second Person of the Trinity leaving heaven’s throne to be born into poverty as he clothed himself in human flesh—entering the world through the womb of a virgin girl—in order to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). God was born that man no more may die—to borrow the words from the well known carol, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Jesus—the Creator—entered his very creation on a saving mission and today after completing his mission on the cross and being raised from the dead on the third day, he sits upon heaven’s throne as he upholds the entire universe by his power (Heb. 1:3). Santa cannot compare to Jesus.
Teach your children the truth about God. Build confidence in your children by allowing them to know that you will always tell them the truth. Make Christmas about God’s gift in Jesus rather than Santa’s big bag of goodies that will be broken and forgotten about before February.