One Christmas season, in the years before we thought children would be part of our lives, my husband and I decided that we didn’t want to focus on Santa Claus or the materialistic, consumerism that can be confused as Christmas, if we were to have children. The conversation was sparked after we saw the man himself plastered on a book cover in my husband’s hometown Christian bookstore. We didn’t have a clue what a Christmas without Santa or any of those minor details would look like. It was hard to put a finger on our exact reasons, but we both knew that Santa and presents couldn’t be the goal for our potential family.
Well, last night, while putting our 3 1/2 year old son to bed, I explained that when he woke up it would be Christmas. His little sleepy eyes grew so large and round. He struggled to tell me something through his excitement and jumbled words and sign language, even pulling over Bear to help. It finally clicked in my head.
“Are you trying to say Santa Claus?”
“Yeah, Santa Claus. Santa Claus will bring me presents on new day?!?”
I paused here, moments flashing through my thoughts. Whenever that jolly guy had popped up in our favorite PBS show or just anywhere these past few weeks, I had made it a point to nonchalantly comment that Santa Claus was a character, that he was pretend. We had talked to him about how we are celebrating Jesus’ birthday, how different aspects of the season point to him.
It’s the conversation some Christian parents may cringe to face. I’ve seen Christian parents do whatever they can–pictures at the mall, sneaking around at night, encouraging the kids to write letters, tracking apps–all in the hope that they can get one more year of belief out of their children who are 8, 9, 10 years old. What if we put that much effort, that much care and heart into getting our children to see the truth of Christ? Do we put too much focus on something during their formative years that will last maybe 10 years but forget to show them the only way to lasting joy during this impressionable time?
But last night was the moment of truth for me, when my firstborn asked in the sweetest voice if he was good enough to be visited by Santa Claus.
Remember those words of advice, that your kids want you more than the things you can give? Doesn’t Santa Claus play into what we don’t want to teach them? It’s as if we’re telling them that they will get these really extravagant gifts from some man they see once a year? And that it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that: you don’t need a relationship in order to receive the rewards, you just have to perform, to be good. Then you get to make a list of demands.
It broke my heart to hear my son ask me if Santa was going to bring him presents. I knew that my answer could very well brighten his night or crush his hope. My answer could even determine our future Christmas seasons for him, his little brother, and any other siblings that may join him.
He is our son, our treasure, our hope for the future, we are going to give him good gifts–mainly in the form of our love and guidance–regardless of his performance, and we are going to do it all year round. And if he wants a monster truck, he only has to ask, no theatrics required.
Christ seeks us always, especially when we are lost or brokenhearted. Santa seeks us only if we have been good. Christ says that we only have to ask and it will be given to us out of his storehouse of riches. Santa wants a list and will give things to us if we meet the criteria. Christ our savior watches us, knowing we will never be sinless, but offering his love regardless. Santa watches us to judge whether or not we meet his criteria. Christ can be counted on to be with us at all times–he entered the world and he is here to stay. Santa Claus shows up out of no where and disappears the same way. Jesus touches our hearts while Santa only looks at our outward appearance. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. Santa, well he’s pretty much pure fiction. To put it another way, “Santa doesn’t hold a candle to this flame, Jesus.”
What did I tell my son? The only thing I could. I explained Santa’s place in the world and that since he was pretend, he couldn’t bring anyone presents. I told him that we loved him and that he could find a few presents under the tree from us on the new day.
I told him that he didn’t have to do anything to receive a present from us. I reminded him of Jesus, and how God loved the whole world, even the bad in us, that he sent Jesus to be with us.
Maybe it’s just me, but do you ever feel judged by how good you are doing? I can get really down on myself when my performance or the result of my tasks fail to meet this standard of perfection I have in my head.
- I didn’t get the dishes done last night: failure.
- I said a snide remark to my husband: failed at being a wife, so now he’s going to look elsewhere.
- I’ve gained 10 pounds since the summer: really?
- I still haven’t finished that book I started at least 6 years ago: I am never going to do it.
Once we start down that negative slope, it can be a long, exhausting climb to joy. I’m not encouraging my children to believe in Santa Claus because I have lived in that works-based mentality and have fought too hard a battle to be free of it to let anything–be it pressure from my family or the thought of keeping up with my friends–to send my children down that path, no matter how jolly the guide may be.