Very recently, I've had a change of heart regarding Santa Clause, as well as the general celebration of Christmas. First of all, let me say that the arguments I've heard against incorporating Santa Clause into Christmas celebration had no affect on my decision. I've heard people say that they don't want to lie to their children. I'm pretty sure that we don't really have to lie to them in order to include Santa in some way. I'm also pretty sure that most parents who use this argument lie to their children about other things. The idea that we shouldn't lead our children to believe that Santa brought the presents on Christmas Eve because we want the credit for the gifts that we spent so much time and money acquiring just seems selfish, though I understand the sentiment better than I like to admit. These aren't bad arguments, but I could skirt them if I wanted.
No, none of these points made it into my internal struggle. In fact, I was driving to Louisville for a doctor's appointment on Wednesday when it hit me. I was listening to the BarlowGirl Christmas cd. (If you don't have it yet, make sure to hit LifeWay tomorrow.) In the midst of the sleigh bells jingling in the background and familiar harmonies in the foreground, I had an epiphany. That's right, an epiphany.
I remembered a story that B.Wal told me about her son, Woodstock (no, that isn't his real name. She's no sadist.). He was looking through the magazines and catalogs that fill our children's' brains with pro-toy propaganda every year, apparently beginning in September these days. He kept seeing pictures of Santa Clause, but he didn't understand. (I'm unsure of the exact wording of the conversation, but I'm fairly confident of the content.)
Woodstock: "Why is he in so many pictures?"
B. Wal: "Because it's a Christmas magazine."
Woodstock: (rummaging through pages frantically) "Christmas is about Jesus, right? Where's baby Jesus?"
This tells me a few things. First off, my friend is doing a great job in teaching her kids the actual meaning of Christmas. Secondly, focusing on Santa just doesn't make sense, even to a 3 year-old, in light of the miraculous Gospel of Christ. Finally, it reminds me of how much I love that Woodstock, and how much I will miss him, but that's beside the point.
Here is my epiphany: When Santa Clause becomes more than a symbol of the infinitely gracious gift that we receive from God the Father through His Son, he becomes a stumbling block. When lights become more than a reminder that the Light of the World entered humanity in the form of a baby, they become useless. When a tree is more than a way of pointing to Christ as the Giver of Eternal Life, it loses its value. These things are great, but only as long as they point to the eternal meaning of Christmas.
Christ came that we would no longer be separated from the Father. He emptied Himself of His rightful glory and took on the humiliating and helpless form of an infant. He came to die for us, and to defeat death on our behalf. He came to free us from the bondage of sin!
And yet, we turn our focus, and the focus of our children, to an imaginary old man who brings... toys. Seriously? Does anyone else feel swindled? The greatness of the free grace of God has been overshadowed by a game of pretend. What a tragedy.
I'm not saying that Santa Clause should be outlawed in the Christian home. He can have a place in the celebration of the birth of Christ, but a little one. If anything, Santa should only play supporting role, if not a walk-on role, in the traditions of Christmas. To make him more than that is to rob our children of the greatest joy of Christmas. It is to lead them to believe that the grace of God that is poured over us in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is less impressive than an RC car, doll, or video game system.
I have to say, this realization has brought joy already. I can't wait to share the true wonder of Christmas. I am anxious to use the Christmas tree, lights, and gifts as a way to point to Christ. I hope that I can use this opportunity to draw my babies closer to the throne of God. The greatest gift that I can give my girls this holiday is to help them understand the joy and power made available to us through the Son of God. What a privilege!
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