On the center table of our home is a figurine of Santa kneeling down and worshiping Jesus. It was the one thing I wanted from my childhood. My mom promised it to me as a little boy. To me, it summarizes the role Santa plays in our home. He is a part of Christmas, but he is subservient to Jesus.
Over on Kidology.org we have a thread the gets action ever December: How to answer Kids questions about Santa. I invite you to chime in!
My story is a funny one, because in my home, we enjoyed Santa – but not only did I not “believe” in Santa, I didn’t know any kids actually believed in him until my first Christmas as a children’s pastor! I found out in the most horrible way.
Teaching on the “true meaning of Christmas” in kids church I must have mentioned that Santa wasn’t real… (well, he isn’t!) I didn’t intend any harm to children, it wasn’t the point of my lesson, I also said it wasn’t presents or lights or snowmen or trees! I don’t even remember exactly how it came up! Maybe I was asked by a child. But Monday morning I was in the senior pastor’s office (who was a father of six kids) being asked…
Boss: “Did you tell the children in children’s church that Santa isn’t real?”
Me: “Um, I might have.”
Boss: “Why would you do that?”
Me: “Well, um, maybe because, he isn’t?”
Boss: “But why would you do that in church?”
Me: “Well, my lesson was on the true meaning of Christmas?”
Boss: “But what gives you the right to spoil Christmas for kids?”
Me: “How does telling kids the reall meaning of Christmas spoil Christmas?”
Boss: “Because a lot of kids believe Santa is real?”
Me: “They do? Not grade school school kids. Who tells them that?”
Boss: “Their parents.”
Me: “Not CHRISTIAN parents?!?!?”
Boss: “I do.”
It was a real eye-opener to me! I never knew that anyone, let alone Christian parents would tell their kids that Santa was REAL! I can’t bring myself to “lie” to my son. (I use the word lie very lightly, but it is lying, as its not true.) However, I don’t judge parents who do this, I have good friends and family members who do let their kids “believe” in Santa. But for me, I don’t see the need to believe in something for it to be fun. I didn’t need to believe Star Wars was real for it to bring so much joy to my childhood. (or adulthood for that matter!) – – sorry, if a few of you out there are just now saying, “What!?!? Star Wars isn’t real!?!”
The real clincher for me is that so much of our Christian faith, if we are honest, is hard to believe! Faith is required. (Josh*)
I want everything I tell my son to be TRUE. When I do tell him things that aren’t true – as I often do in a joking manner – if he asks, “Really, Dad?” I answer honestly. I don’t want him to discard Jesus when he discards Santa. But he can always tell when I’m “lying” or having fun making stuff up – be fanciful. So when I say, “This is true” he believes me. So when I say the Sea parted, or the sun stood still, or Jesus walked on water, and my son says, “Come on, REALLY DAD?” I want to be able to say, “YES, Son, REALLY.”
That’s why I don’t lie to my son, ever. And I can’t bring myself to tell him Santa is real. Because so much about our faith IS unbelievable. And yet so true. So why start at this young age telling him something that isn’t real, is?
But that’s not dogmatic or judgemental. That’s just MY decision for MY family. Because I have a responsibility to raise MY son to know the difference between what is real and what is true and to not discard Jesus when he discards Santa, as 85% of all high schoolers do according to research “as a childhood belief.”
I LOVE how Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill sums up the issue in: What We Tell Our Kids About Santa. It’s a GREAT read. In summary:
The daughter of one of my great hero’s, Ewin Lutzer, has an excellent blog post on the topic, Lori Bourne: Should Parents Tell Their Children the Truth About Santa? It is an excellent and through post with many ecellents comments!
But, in my summary, I think I like BEST how my good friend, Henry Zonio, summed it up in a much shorter blog post:
A lot of people are worried about their kids believing that Santa is real. It’s not the story you tell at Christmas that’s going to determine their belief in Jesus. It’s the story that you tell every other day of the year with your life that makes the difference.
NOTE ON COMMENTS: I have 20+ on Facebook so far and 2 here… keep in mind Facebook comments vanish and are never read again, comments here are archived and become part of the annual discussion (like Lori’s comments on her blog) so be sure to post your thoughts here to last longer!