05 December 2011

Is Santa Claus a Theological Threat?

I may regret tackling this subject. The issue of Santa Claus seems to be a touchy one among some Christians, and yet it baffles me as to why. Before I say too much, let me share with you that I grew up believing in Santa Claus. I vividly remember the excitement and anticipation that came with the holiday season. I also remember what that excitement centered around: presents. More than that, I remember what it felt like when I was finally told that Santa Claus was nothing but an imaginary figure. Honestly, I don't fault my parents at all. Following what their own parents had done, they likely never considered an alternative. And I know that today, if they could go back, they would choose to forgo the Santa myth. So for those of you who are parents of young children, or for those of you who will be, I pray that you will proceed through the Christmas season with much prayer and consideration.

It's true, letters to Santa and fabricated elf sightings may help your child to behave better for a few fleeting weeks, but what is being simultaneously sacrificed? Let us begin with the obvious answer: your child's trust. Why is it that parents, who demand the utmost in honesty and truthfulness from their children (and rightly so), suddenly adhere to a seasonal double-standard as regards mythical persons such as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? There is no logical way to rationalize this, and it certainly cannot be justified from Scripture! So why are you lying to your children? What might be the consequences when you finally decide to share the truth? Perhaps your child may reason that if you lied about Santa, then you may have lied about other things...like Jesus Christ. While it's true that this may be an extreme response, it is nevertheless a very real danger. And what if you have more than one child? When the time comes to let your eldest in on the secret, will you ask him to lie to his sibling until such a time arrives for that child? Please think about this, parents. The consequences could extend far beyond what you can imagine.

Now, let's move beyond the *mere* moral and into the theological. Have you ever truly considered the attack that modern-day Santa Claus imposes upon the truths of biblical Christianity? Please don't dismiss my words here, because I do not believe that I am exaggerating. Several evenings ago, I caught a few minutes of a popular Christmas movie on television. What did I hear coming from the mouth of a child actor? "He's Santa. He's omniscient!" Really? Santa is omniscient? Perhaps I'm overreacting, but it seems to me that, as Christians, we ought to be grieved, angered, and even abhorred by the fact that one of God's great incommunicable attributes has been ascribed to an overweight, mythical elf. God alone is omniscient and, in spite of the fact that our modern-day Santa Claus is mere fiction, we ought not allow our children to believe that God shares such a holy characteristic with anyone or anything.

Compare the following to the ever-popular Christmas tune, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town:"
    O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
    You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
    You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
    Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
    You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6)
Wow, doesn't Scripture offer us a much better omniscient figure than does the world? And yet we still deceive our children, rationalizing that belief in Santa Claus is "just a part of childhood." In reality, we are depriving our precious children of a true celebration.

Ponder further for a moment this fact: the modern-day idea of Santa Claus and his gift-giving runs entirely contrary to the Gospel. A "naughty" child is punished, while a "nice" child is rewarded. How confusing for our children! Do we not labor to teach them the Gospel, that it is through the work of Christ alone that we are saved, not by our own good works (Eph. 2:8-9)? Do we not desire for them to understand that righteous living is a result of a transformed heart, that good works are offered in gratitude and out of a longing to serve the God who has so graciously and undeservedly saved us? Is it not our wish that they would serve the Lord with good works not for what they may receive in return, but because they desire to do so? And yet, here comes Santa Claus, with his contrary message that reads far more like the legalism of the Pharisees than like the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Is it any wonder that so many people today are floundering in the belief that if they are a "good person" they will get to Heaven?!

Parents, is there any better story to tell your children this Christmas than this: that Jesus Christ was born to die? Is there any visitor more glorious than the One who humbled Himself two thousand years ago, entering this world in such a lonely and lowly state? Santa "loves" your children enough to bring them toys that will break. Jesus loved them enough to bleed and die that they may be spared from the eternal wrath of a holy God. How dare we think for even a moment that to deceive our children with the Santa Claus myth is nothing more than an innocent right of childhood!

I certainly am not seeking to tell you what to do in your own family. Even if that was my intention, I would hope that you would not listen to me, but rather would search the Scriptures and the Lord in prayer. Personally, I am not of the mind that Christians ought to ignore Christmas altogether. On the contrary, who in this world has more reason for celebration than those who have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ?! So let us enjoy the season, but let us not do so as the world would have us celebrate. Rather, let us rejoice as children of God, ever-mindful that all glory, praise and honor is due to Him forever and ever.

22 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more! My wife's friend questioned God for this very reason. Thank you for putting it into words that are easier to explain than my lame attempts.

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  2. Amen! Well put, that pretty much settled the matter in my mind. Namely, I do not plan on telling my kids that Santa is real just for their amusement. The season is about Jesus and nothing else.

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  3. Really? Must be a slow day in blogworld...

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  4. Actually, Anonymous, I was just sharing some of my personal thoughts and concerns on a timely topic. I'm sorry if it wasn't gripping or exciting enough for you. Hopefully you were able to find another resident of "blogworld" more to your liking.

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  5. Great thoughts. It is easy to get wrapped up in the "Christmas fun" and miss the real meaning of Christmas with our children. I regret the Christmas myths we taught our children. If we could do it all over again, Santa would have no part in our celebration of Christmas.

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  6. We had Santa in our house, but our kids knew everything which said "from Santa" was actually from us. Santa was a fun fairy tale, the same was was Cinderella, Snow White and all the others. But they were always taught the real reason for Christmas and never confused the two. We just couldn't see the point in lying to our children. My wife's grandfather was livid, saying we were stealing our children's childhood by telling them Santa was just a story.

    So if kids are given Santa as a fun story, it is harmless.

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  7. And let's not also forget that Santa is a representation of Nimrod (or Baal), grandson of Haam, son of Noah.

    http://www.realtruth.org/articles/228-prh.html

    http://www.masterbuilder.org/tracts/santa.htm

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  8. We raised four children who are now adults with their own families. We taught them the truth about Christmas. We caught some heat over it too from grandparents, but we got through it.
    Now we have ten grandchildren who suffer no ill effects from not believing in Santa.
    I was raised to believe in Santa and my Dad shook jingle-bells to help any unbelief I may have had. When dad thought I was at the age of accountability he said,"you're to old to believe in Santa!"
    Following Christ changed everything for me.
    You are touching sacred stuff when you touch Santa traditions. Like my dear old dad explained to me, "believing in Santa didn't hurt you any, now did it?"

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  9. Erin, I agree with you on this subject. When my three were growing up I didn't lie to them that Santa existed. Why deliberately lie to children? We don't want them to lie, so why lie to them? Also I agree that perhaps Santa represents a fake "God-like" figure. And don't many unsaved adults have just this idea about God, that he is a tolerant, kind old grandfather who winks at sin and looks the other way? I think it is just a secular replacement for the story of Christ's birth. But that was then....now we have of all things, the Grinch. He is portrayed very like a false God too, he begins mean but is touched by a child's heart and becomes all gooey and gushy. The unsaved, natural man hates God and looks for substitutes and all manner of things to forget Him.

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  10. Okay, we are getting a wee bit silly here. NO, Santa was never a representation of Nimrod. That is just one of those things totally made up as another reason why Christians should have nothing to do with Santa.

    The origin is St. Nicholas, and that is the only origin.

    As noted the way we did it with our kids, there is absolutely nothing wrong with playing the game of Santa as just another story, like Snow White, Cinderella, or even Tom Sawyer. You don't lie to them telling them he's real, etc, rather you just tell them the story so they can understand what is happening around them. They will see Santa in the public world and they need to know the truth about the story and why everyone goes ga-ga. They can know the truth and still have fun, just like we did with the Tooth Fairy - it was a game, a fairy tale.

    Santa did not originate from Nimrod and Christmas trees are not forbidden by Jeremiah.

    Celebrate the birth of Christ, and even have a birthday cake (we did), but you can also celebrate the secular part of gift-giving and playing with Santa.

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  11. Thanks for addressing this before I had a chance to, Glenn. Much appreciated.

    I agree that kids should absolutely understand the origin (St. Nicholas) as well as the modern-day marketing rationale as to why Santa and elves abound this time of year. There is no harm in them understanding the whole thing as a fairy tale, since that is exactly what it is. Although personally, I wouldn't bring Santa Claus into any of my own family celebrations, reserving the day and the celebration solely for Christ.

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  12. Ah, but that's just it. DON'T have Santa as part of Christmas - The game with him has to be done by Christmas Eve!

    But you have to remember, you don't "celebrate"" with Santa - he's only a Christmastime fairy tale.

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  13. I first heard of the Nimrod traditions through The Fuel Project: Know Your Enemy and have done more research to this. I go back to my original statement and understand that we can agree to disagree.

    Fuel Project http://youtu.be/221sYyagu2I

    The Origin of Christmas http://youtu.be/IqQI9EXzows

    http://christmasxmas.xanga.com/682414705/item/

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  14. I wasn't referring to Nimrod as you suggested. Actually never heard that particular claim/teaching. I am just saying that to me Santa does have the potential of replacing the true God in people's minds and hearts. If you don't agree Glenn then you are free to have Santa for your family. I do find as I get older that sometimes these things seem harmless on their face, but it is good to examine them and the outcome of them from time to time. Discernment never hurt anyone. it is interesting to note those whose own writings are about discernment will easily pooh-pooh others who are trying to think things through themselves.

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  15. Amanda,
    A lot of people put too much credibility into these made up stories, and Alexander Hislop was a prime source of many of these stories and his "Two Babylons" book propagated much of this stuff, which later, more valid scholars, have debunked. Even Ralph Woodrow, in his book "Babylon Mystery Religion" cited Hislop for many of his stories. He later admitted that Hislop was in grave error in too many places and Woodrow essentially rewrote his book to correct the errors of propagating these "Christian myths" - and his later book is "The Babylon Connection?"

    It isn't a matter of agreeing to disagree - it is a matter of truth. These tales have taken on the disguise of truth, but they are myths nevertheless.

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  16. Amanda,

    One thing more. Rather than just make assertions based on similar appearances, try finding research done by scholars who make the same claims as these videos, and that one site claiming that the pictures of Santa have "halos."

    And, for the sake of argument, let's say that some artists DID use halos for their particular depictions of Santa - that still does not demonstrate that Santa came from Nimrod or any pagan origins. It is a classic non sequitur logical fallacy to say similarities are there for connections of origins. Not only that, but there is the "post hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacy of claiming that because something similar was used by pagan it therefore caused the idea of Santa.

    The true history of the origin of Santa is well documented for anyone truly researching the subject instead of arbitrary prejudicial conjecture based on trying to find some pagan origin for every Christian celebration.

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  17. Glenn (comment from 10:30 AM),

    We may agree to disagree on how much involvement Santa ought to have in the family Christmas season! I agree that kids need to know and understand why his "presence" is so overwhelming, but like I said, I personally would not include the fairy tale in any part of my family's acknowledgement of the season! I guess I don't really see the point...

    As for the remaining arguments, I'll admit that I haven't done much research into all of these various claims. We can't really refute that, ultimately, "Santa" goes back to St. Nicholas, but I believe that, like so many other things, the idea has been abused over and over again, and so here we are with today's latest version, which is another false idol promoting materialism and worldliness.

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  18. Anonymous,

    My comment about Nimrod was directed at the post by Amanda.

    ANYTHING can be used to supplant God, but I have never, ever met a Christian who put Santa ahead of God. Do they lie to their children about him being real? Yes, but that doesn't lead to supplanting God in their hearts. As for the pagans, it doesn't matter.

    True discernment recognizes and teaches what is false vs true. It allows one to participate in Romans 14 issues without harm.

    My point is not to tell anyone they have to have Santa in their family, rather it is to say that anyone CAN have him without violating any of God's commands. I dispute that Santa has some ancient pagan origin which makes it unholy to have Santa as part of seasonal fun.

    While I have never or heard of a Christian being attacked by another Christian for not wanting to have Santa in their home, I have heard of and seen over my life hundreds of Christians being attacked by other Christians because they DO have Santa.

    If the idea of Santa bothers people, then they don't have to play with him. But they shouldn't make up stories about him (and Christmas trees, etc) to say how unholy and pagan they are and then chastise Christians who do participate in the fun.

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  19. It is hard to have these types of conversations through comments. Rather than focusing on the specifics of the topic, I would rather focus on the importance of research and going back to Scripture as well as relying on the Holy Spirit to reveal things. My prayer is that people love the truth and look for the truth on their own (and yes, with reliable sources). Where Santa Claus originated isn't a salvation issue so I don't mind that people may think differently about the topic. I mostly care about what is happening in our churches and the false theology being spread and the blasphemy going on.

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  20. I agree that it is good to think deeply and carefully about these types of things. Maybe this falls into the same category as Halloween? Sort of?

    At any rate, we are a conservative Christian family but Santa has always come to our home and we have delighted in the tradition.
    My children are now teenagers and we will still hang our stockings, leave carrots for the reindeer and cookies and milk for Santa. My kids have never confused this fun tradition with the truth of being followers of Christ. Santa will come to our home until I, I mean he, is no longer capable of delivering presents under the tree to even the least deserving.

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  21. Glenn,

    It sounds like you misunderstood my initial comment. I have no problem with people having fun at Christmas and enjoying Santa, stockings, Christmas trees, etc. I love to listen to my Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald and enjoying the festivities. I was just adding on to the article with no intention of chastising anyone. Sorry if you took it that way.

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  22. If you go to SermonAudio.com and type in "Christmas" you will find a lot of sermons directed against the season. Apparently Martin Luther and the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas.

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