“12 thoughts of Christmas” #2: the Santa Question

In Kids Ministry and more incidental interactions with children at this time of year, I’m always interested to see how children of various ages process the conundrum of Jesus “versus” Santa! Every church going child knows that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and yet, often, the presents that miraculously appear under the tree on Christmas morning have come from Santa (we know this because the cookies were eaten and his reindeer left half-eaten carrots on the driveway!). Obviously our community celebrates a Santa-driven Christmas season and yet we sing songs like “Away in a Manger” and have donkeys and camels in the nativity pictures. How can we reconcile the two?

Teaching Grade 2 (at a Christian school) there were always a few children who would loudly proclaim to all that Santa wasn’t real and even a couple that would go so far as to say he was ‘of the Devil’. There were then many conversations to be had with distraught children (or less-than-impressed parents) whose Christmas paradigm had been shattered.

My response was always to gently remind the children that all families have different ways of celebrating special occasions and, at Christmas, some of them have Santa as part of their tradition. Generally this was enough to quiet the militant few and was innocuous enough to allow the ‘believers’ to continue in whatever their family had raised them to consider as ‘right’.

The breadth of Christian response to “the Santa Question” stretches from here to the North Pole and I would never pronounce judgement on anyone for the choices they make within that … just some thoughts to ponder.

  • If you decide to include the ‘make believe’ of Santa in your family traditions, be sure to speak clearly to how that matches up with the real story of Christmas. There aren’t two different occasions being celebrated here – just the one; Jesus’ birthday. How do Santa and presents help us celebrate a special day?
  • The unfortunate flow-on effect of the Santa-based Christmas model is that the focus becomes all about “ME”!! What do I want for Christmas? What will Santa bring ME? If I am good I’ll get everything I want! The REAL story of Christmas is that God made sure we would have EVERYTHING we would ever NEED!! The humble nature of the nativity tells us that serving and giving are more important than getting and “things”. Children need our help to not lose sight of that.
  • Christmas is a time of awe and wonder for children. Who isn’t captivated by the sight of a small child whose tired face is lit up by a candle as they sing carols with their family or by the glow of Christmas lights tinkling on their tree; Christmas stockings that go from flat and limp to bulging with goodies – all while we’re asleep (whoever delivers them there)?! But I can’t think of anything more awe inspiring or worthy of our wide-eyed wonder than the truth that the God of the Universe would make Himself to be a human child. Born to a place and in a manner that even our pets wouldn’t have to endure. The greatest gift we could ever conceive and an act of the greatest love we will ever know.

What about you? How do you manage the “Jesus/Santa” question in your household and family?

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