About a week ago, a friend of mine Marshall, posted this on his blog and it got me thinking.
And then the same day of this post, we went to a Christmas concert by Andrew Peterson and he talked about his longing to present a concert where Santa wasn't invited. We listened to his music and stories and felt refreshed and reminded.
"Warning parents: if your six-year-old reads this blog, please have them skip
this entry because we will be discussing the "S" word here (Santa).
"So, do you all have Santa at your house?" This has been the million dollar question of late, due to the season. And despite a nagging feeling that I am depriving my kids of a rite of childhood, Diane and I have chosen to tell our children that Santa Claus (as perpetuated by the media and culture) is not real, that he will not be coming down our non-existent chimney, and that he will not be bringing them toys this Christmas (we don't talk about it quite that bluntly). We do tell them about Saint Nicholas and the things he did for the poor because of his love for Jesus.
The reason for our choice is that we are really trying to be intentional about making Christ the focus of our Christmas preparation and celebration, and Santa sort of gums up the works because he becomes the star of the show on Christmas morning. It's hard enough to stem the cultural tide of consuming and making Christmas so dependent upon presents; adding an expectation that even more gifts will be coming from Santa just seems counterproductive.
And yet I can't help but feel like the Grinch when I tell friends that, no, we don't have gifts from Santa for our kids. It's not that I catch any overt grief, but all of my reasons sound so self-righteous, especially when I say them to fellow Christians. "We really want to be intentional about Christ being the focus of Christmas." (Oh, so my Christian friends who do the whole Santa thing aren't focused on Jesus at Christmas?) "We really want to fight against consumerism." (Oh, so my Christian friends who do the whole Santa thing are just wasteful spendthrifts?) And the subtle implication of our Western culture is that if you don't get your kids amazing gifts, you might not love them as much as other parents love their kids.
Yes, there is something beautiful about childlike faith, about cookies and milk being left for Santa to nibble. There is something very sweet about the openness to wonder and miracles that goes right along with the Santa idea. But I want my children's faith to focus on the wonder of Emmanuel, God with us. On the miracle that the Lord loves them so much that He would come near, as a baby, a child just like them, in order that they might know God in the deepest parts of their heart and soul. I know that there is only so deep that this faith and understanding can go at a young age (heck, at any age). But what better time of year, a time of lights and giving and joy, to sow seeds of faith in Christ and to really embrace the adage that Jesus is the reason for the season. Perhaps there is a convincing argument that Santa doesn't hinder that at all, and that he even enhances it by opening our hearts to simple faith. I can hear that, but I can't get past the thought that faith in something that isn't true is perhaps faith that is misplaced. Growing comfortable in our decision make take some time.
I think the secret is safe with our kids – I told the girls that some of their friends will still believe in Santa and that they should not tell them otherwise, and Psalter with
all seriousness said, "I will never, ever tell them."
And then we went to another Christmas concert a few days later with Christmas songs, but also sprinkled in the likes of Blue Christmas and Baby It's Cold Outside. It was just another reminder of how Christmas can so easily get dumbed down to a holiday that is about family and cold weather (at its best) and about getting presents (at its worst) but never about Jesus.
So, I guess all these events kind of came together for us. We've felt like there are so many distractions from Thanksgiving to Christmas, why do we need to introduce another? And there are so many opportunities to talk about Christ, do I really want to invest that time with my kids talking about Santa instead?
Now, we still have a lot of hurdles to get over (what do they do in school when the teacher talks about Santa? and do we not do stockings? and do we really not get to read all those great Christmas books? and is there any more effective way we could make our friends and family feel like we are better than them?) but I think we're sticking to our guns.