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Thinking About Santa (Part I)


Here are some good thoughts from John Piper’s wife, Noel:

Over the years, we have chosen not to include Santa Claus in our Christmas stories and decorations. There are several reasons.

First, fairy tales are fun and we enjoy them, but we don’t ask our children to believe them.

Second, we want our children to understand God as fully as they’re able at whatever age they are. So we try to avoid anything that would delay or distort that understanding. It seems to us that celebrating with a mixture of Santa and manger will postpone a child’s clear understanding of what the real truth of God is. It’s very difficult for a young child to pick through a marble cake of part-truth and part-imagination to find the crumbs of reality.

Third, we think about how confusing it must be to a straight-thinking, uncritically-minded preschooler because Santa is so much like what we’re trying all year to teach our children about God. Look, for example, at the “attributes” of Santa.

– He’s omniscient—he sees everything you do.
– He rewards you if you’re good.
– He’s omnipresent—at least, he can be everywhere in one night.
– He gives you good gifts.
– He’s the most famous “old man in the sky” figure.

But at the deeper level that young children haven’t reached yet in their understanding, he is not like God at all.

For example, does Santa really care if we’re bad or good? Think of the most awful kid you can remember. Did he or she ever not get gifts from Santa?

What about Santa’s spying and then rewarding you if you’re good enough? That’s not the way God operates. He gave us his gift—his Son—even though we weren’t good at all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He gave his gift to us to make us good, not because we had proved ourselves good enough.

Helping our children understand God as much as they’re able at whatever age they are is our primary goal. But we’ve also seen some other encouraging effects of not including Santa in our celebration.

First, I think children are glad to realize that their parents, who live with them all year and know all the worst things about them, still show their love at Christmas. Isn’t that more significant than a funny, old, make-believe man who drops in just once a year?

Second, I think most children know their family’s usual giving patterns for birthday and special events. They tend to have an instinct about their family’s typical spending levels and abilities. Knowing that their Christmas gifts come from the people they love, rather than from a bottomless sack, can help diminish the “I-want-this, give-me-that” syndrome.

And finally, when children know that God’s generosity is reflected by God’s people, it tends to encourage a sense of responsibility about helping make Christmas good for others.

Karsten, for example, worked hard on one gift in 1975. On that Christmas morning, his daddy stepped around a large, loose-flapped cardboard box to get to his chair at the breakfast table. “Where’s Karsten?” he asked, expecting to see our excited three-year-old raring to leap into the day. Sitting down, I said, “He’ll be here in a minute.”

I nudged the box with my toe. From inside the carton, Karsten threw back the flaps and sprang to his full three-foot stature. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them . . .” He had memorized Luke 2:8-20 as a gift for his dad. Karsten knew the real story.

In fact, a few days later, he and I were walking down the hall at the church we attended then. One of the older ladies leaned down to squeeze his pink, round cheek and asked, “What did Santa bring you?” Karsten’s head jerked quickly toward me, and he whispered loudly, “Doesn’t she know?”

(taken from Desiring God Blog)

4 Responses to “Thinking About Santa (Part I)”

  1. on 17 Dec 2009 at 4:21 pmVictor

    here is a related article by Rev. Vince Finnegan regarding this topic in the current issue of Glad Tidings. Here is a link to the article


  2. on 18 Dec 2009 at 4:34 amMark C.

    While I am in complete agreement with regard to not lying to your children about Santa Claus, I have to point out that Vince’s article (linked above) contain the same kind of generalizations and historical inaccuracies about the origins of Christmas that I wrote about in my article.

    First of all, it was the birth of Sol Invictus, not Saturnalia, that was on Dec. 25, and which prompted the Christian Church to adopt that date as the birth of Christ. Second, they didn’t “import the festival hoping to take the Pagan masses with it,” nor did they convert pagans by promising they could continue to celebrate Saturnalia (or the birth of Sol Invictus).

    The Christian Church at that time may have been influenced by Greek philosophy especially regarding who Jesus was, but they did not condone the debauchery that went on during Roman feasts, and as I’ve mentioned, designated Dec. 25 as the birthday of Jesus as an alternative.

    There are conflicting stories of what went on during Saturnalia. The specific details in Vince’s article were taken from a web site called simpletoremember.com (sub-titled Judaism Online) and a brief perusal makes it clear that they have an anti-Christian bias. Another site, American Chronicle, had this to say:

    By the time Jesus came on the scene, the most barbaric feature of the Saturnalia, human sacrifice, had vanished from polite society. But even though the king of the feast was no longer sacrificed, contemporaries reported a week of reveling that would induce apoplectic seizure in a Puritan.

    The Roman celebration featured a mock king called the Lord of Misrule, gift giving, and role reversal for slaves and masters. For a week slaves had the run of the villa. They ate, drank and bossed their masters around as if they had become the masters themselves. Perhaps a new pagan triumph would get us a week off from airport strip searches and bureaucratic ring kissing.

    In the first few hundred years after Christ’s death his followers spread like a wet blanket over the debauched glory of pagan Rome. The Roman authorities resisted conversion by publicly murdering Christians in imaginative and gruesome ways. But Christ’s message enthralled mankind like no message had before.

    I am certainly not in favor of pagan rituals, but far too many well-meaning Christians have been accepting inaccurate information about the origins of Christmas and making it harder to get back to focusing on Christ at this time of year.

    So let’s not lie to our kids about Santa, but let’s also get the facts straight about why the birth of Christ has been celebrated on Dec. 25 by Christians for hundreds of years.

  3. on 21 Dec 2009 at 5:50 pmstacey

    Hi all and God bless,

    I just posted something on FB and recieved many loving replys of support from my brothers and sisters in Christ, however I also received a few not so nice responses, my post was this “Why do people think I am wrong for not lying to my daughter and tell her there is no santa or easter bunny and all those things, she loves God and has been raised in the Word her whole life and is such a loving careing sweet little girl who wants to do what God says, why would I lie to her when God is the only truth?” I can not believe the replys I recieved in person with people I speak to at work and a few on FB! I know first hand when you lie to your children even about things that dont seem bad like santa easter bunnies and things they DO NOT RESPECT YOU OR BELIEVE ANYTHING YOU SAY AS ADULTS! When you lie you always have to keep lying to cover up the first lie! Anyway who needs santa and those worldly things when you have God’s amazing love that is more than enough and I love bringing up these things to people so I can have the opportunity to talk about HIS amazing grace and love!!!! Thank you Victor.
    God Bless! 🙂

  4. on 21 Dec 2009 at 6:20 pmMark C.

    I think it has a lot to do with people not understanding the purpose of things like myth and fantasy and fiction. They think if you tell kids that Santa is a made-up character, you’re taking away everything fun. But if you teach them that it’s a story, and teach them the difference between stories and reality, they are not losing out on anything. And then it would be consistent with the rest of the stories that you tell your kids. Nobody expects their kids to believe in real fairy princesses or talking bears do they? Why keep insisting that Santa is “real”?


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