He's making a list and checking it twice
Gonna find out who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Santa was a big part of my family's Christmas celebrations when I was growing up. I have many sweet memories of family traditions, the ways my parents and extended family conspired to create a little Christmas magic and delight my brother and me. Leaving cookies out; a big ashy footprint on the hearth the next morning; Santa somehow always knowing that we would be at my grandmother's house on Christmas morning rather than at home; never-before-seen wrapping paper that PROVED the gifts weren't from my parents...funny little stories that make me smile.
Steve's family didn't do the whole Santa Claus thing, though, so since getting married and having children of our own, we've had to think through and talk about how we want to celebrate Christmas. Will our children know about Santa Claus or receive presents from him? Why? Why not?
There are plenty of Christians who embrace Santa Claus traditions, and plenty of others who don't. I'm not interested in getting into a debate. I will say that growing up making a big deal of Santa, I never felt like my parents had lied to me, and I don't remember being confused about what (Who) Christmas was really about.
However, over the last couple of years I've read some really interesting things that have made me realize how many of our cultural stories about Santa Claus are really the exact opposite of the gospel. John Piper points out in a brief video clip:
You better watch out,
You better not cry,
You better not pout,
I’m telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town.
So get your act together!
That is not good news for me. That is bad news.
An article on The Resurgence called "Jesus Ripped Up Santa's List" puts it beautifully:
The Bible makes it simple though: we all make the naughty list. None is righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10). That’s bad news.
The good news is that, despite our list making tendencies and legalistic leanings, the list was crushed by the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. He is the only one who made the list. Because he made the list, we are given the gift of him. His righteousness, his perfection, and his “niceness” are bestowed upon us with list-shattering grace.
Praise His name! I'm so thankful that even though I have cried and pouted, even though my name is at the top of the naughty list, I receive not a lump of coal but glorious, eternal riches in Christ Jesus!
Two other articles I read recently have some helpful thoughts on how to talk to children about Santa, including interesting facts about the real St. Nicholas:
What Should Christian Parents Teach Their Children About Santa Claus?
"Though Santa gives gifts based on how good we’ve been all year, the heart of Christian gospel is that we’re given gifts – salvation from sin – because we aren’t good. Unlike the song about Santa, we should never encourage our children to be 'good for goodness sake.' There are, however, redeemable features of the historic person named Saint Nicholas that all Christian parents should teach their children."
What We Tell Our Kids About Santa ~ Mark Driscoll
"When it comes to cultural issues like Santa, Christians have three options: (1) we can reject it, (2) we can receive it, or (3) we can redeem it. Since Santa is so pervasive in our culture, it is nearly impossible to simply reject Santa as part of our annual cultural landscape. Still, as parents we don't feel we can simply receive the entire story of Santa because there is a lot of myth built on top of a true story.
"...We tell our kids that he was a real person who did live a long time ago. We also explain how people dress up as Santa and pretend to be him for fun... We explain how, in addition to the actual story of Santa, a lot of other stories have been added so that Santa is a combination of true and make-believe stories."
Whatever we do with Santa, let's make sure our children know the REAL good news of Christmas. Let's make sure they know that even though they can't hope to make the "nice" list by their best efforts, the Babe in the manger lived perfectly on their behalf--and He offers them the best gifts of all--the gifts of knowing and being with Him forever.