As the Christmas holiday rapidly approaches, our minds are filled with images of trees, twinkling lights, beautifully wrapped presents, and the iconic figure of Santa Claus. Incorporating Santa into a family’s Christmas tradition is a hot topic when it comes to Christians. One of my very wise pastors said, “Some things are neither wrong or right but just a preference.” I believe when it comes to good ol’ Saint Nick, that is the case.
Kevin and I made a deliberate choice to center our Christmas celebrations around Jesus’s birthday. Before opening gifts, we’d read a book called, “The Christmas Lizard,” that focused on the real reason for Christmas and then we’d pray and thank God for sending the gift of His son Jesus. Our children were always happy to receive their presents and toys knowing that those things were a special blessing from God.
We made the decision not to put the emphasis on Santa but we know wonderful Christian families who have made the choice to incorporate him in their Christmas celebrations. When I was a kid, my parents fueled my belief in Santa and yes, there was some fun attached. But looking through my adult Christian parenting lens now I realize a few things that can be “off.”
Using Santa to Manipulate Obedience
I have witnessed some parents “milking” Santa for all he’s worth in order to manipulate their kids into being good during the Christmas season. It is unnerving to hear the broken record responses from parents. “You better be good because Santa is watching.” “Do you want to get coal in your stocking?” “Do you want any presents from Santa?” In all actuality, our children should behave whether Santa Claus comes to town or not. Honoring and respecting their parents and their Heavenly Father should be their main motivation, not a white bearded guy in a red suit checking his list for their name. Armed with that truth, our kids can miraculously behave all year long. Now that’s a gift that keeps on giving!
Naughty or Nice List
It feels good to be on Santa’s “nice” list, doesn’t it? But what in the world is the nice list? When our kids do everything we say? What if they don’t? Are they automatically on the naughty list? How many chances do they have to return to the nice list or are they doomed to the naughty list until they get it right every single time for days? This is chaos.
Let’s be clear. Without Jesus, we are all on the naughty list. Instead of pointing out flaws and spewing threats, how about making it a teaching moment? You could say something like, “Kids, this is what we do when we mess up. I’ve messed up many times.” 1 John 1:9 says “ When we confess our sins he is faithful and just to cleanse us from all sin and unrighteousness.” Lead your kids in prayer and show them that through Jesus, they can always be on the nice list.
Santa or not, let this joyous Christmas season be one to celebrate forgiveness, redemption, and heartfelt obedience to our Heavenly Father.