He goes by a lot of names: Santa Claus, Sinterklass, Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santy, or simply Santa. Since the 19th century Santa Claus has been an American mainstay, beloved by families and cherished as part of the Holiday Season. He can be found in local malls, on the back of fire trucks, at parties, and now even in church celebrations.
The song “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”, written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie in 1934 has immortalized this dominant figure of Christmas Culture.
“You better watch out, you better not cry, Better not pout, I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is comin’ to town. He’s making a list and checking it twice, Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice, Santa Claus is comin’ to town. He sees you when you’re sleepin’, He knows when you’re a wake, He knows if you’ve been bad or good, So be good for goodness sake.”
Many consider Santa the truest depiction of the Christmas Spirit, personalizing the ideals of peace, joy, giving, and caring for other people. His “coming to town”, or advent each Christmas is considered the climax of the year for children.
For Christians, I believe many of us have simply accepted the dominance of Santa, without ever thinking through whether this is helpful to our children, and whether it has perhaps actually distracted from what the holiday that is supposed to celebrate the Advent of Christ Jesus is all about.
I would like to propose some reasons why I do not recommend parents to teach their children about Santa Claus as a true figure who comes into their home yearly. I am not recommending that we demonize the Santa figure, but instead look at him redemptivly. In order to do this, there are some points I must bring to your attention about Santa to help understand why it is important that we don’t celebrate lock-in-step the way the culture around us does.
I realize that already some of you might be slightly disturbed that someone would question the helpfulness of the Santa story and may even feel like this pamphlet is trying to steal joy from children. I would ask that if you’re a Christian, to please sit down and pray right now, asking God to give you wisdom and discernment, and calmly read through this for a few minutes. It can’t hurt you, right? Remember, Jesus said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). This is not to steal joy, but to help encourage lasting joy to your family.
Santa’s Characteristics And Attributes
Consider some of the main characteristics that make the Santa figure so mythological and exciting, but also conflict with Christian and Biblical belief.
- Santa is all-knowing (omniscient). “He sees you when you’re sleepin’ He knows when you’re a wake He knows if you’ve been bad or good…”
The Bible teaches that only God is all knowing.
“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. “ (Psalm 147:5)
“And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)
- Santa is all-present (omnipresent). On Christmas Eve, He is able to be everywhere at once, going to all the houses of the world and giving gifts to all children on one night
The Bible teaches that only God is all-present.
“Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:24)
- Santa is unchangeable (immutable) and never aging (eternal).Year after year, Santa continues to do the same things, watching the actions of children, preparing and giving gifts to them, never aging and never changing.
The Bible teaches that only God is unchanging.
“For I the Lord do not change…” (Malachi 3:6)
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
The Bible teaches that only God is eternal.
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2)
- Children are told to go to Santa’s chair and ask him for anything they want, or to write letters to Santa each year telling him their Christmas needs. Santa wants children to come to him.
The Bible teaches that we are to only boldly go to the throne of Jesus in prayer for our needs.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
Jesus wants children to come to Him.
“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
- The hour of Santa’s coming to each home is a mystery. He comes as a thief, not through the front door, but gaining access by climbing down a chimney. He comes in the sky.
The Bible teaches that the Hour of Jesus’ second coming is a mystery, and is compared to a thief in the night. He is coming in the sky, in the clouds.
“Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.” (Mark 13:33)
“But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:43-44).
“Behold, he is coming with the clouds…” (Revelation 1:7)
- Santa Claus judges who has been bad and rewards who has been good, giving gifts accordingly. “He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake…”
The Bible teaches that God alone is our judge.
“For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God…” (Romans 14:10)
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.” (Revelation 22:12)
- You need child like faith to believe in Santa.
The Bible teaches you need child like faith to believe in Jesus.
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:17)
- Santa is the great giver of gifts.
The Bible teaches that God is the giver of gifts and that Jesus and His Gospel is our greatest gift.
“If you…know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)
Confusion: Think how confusing it is for little children to understand the difference between Jesus Christ, whom Advent and Christmas is supposed to be about, and the Santa mythology which borrows so much from the person of God. Fairy tales are fun, but we should not ask our children to believe them with their very souls. In fact, the Bible commands us to avoid myths, and to not lie in the ninth command (Exodus 20:16; 1 Timothy 1:4; 4:7).
Santa can take the emphasis off of the glorious birth and gift to this world of God’s Son Jesus Christ and instead places it on material gifts and a mythological figure. The sad truth is Santa has replaced Jesus in the hearts and minds of too many children and adults today.
Redeeming Santa Claus: Rather than attack the person of Santa (which non-Christians will not understand), a better option is to redeem him. It is truthful to tell your children there was a real person named Nicolas who lived a long time ago. You can also tell them it is not wrong to have fun with the modern Santa, just like we have pretend superheroes and other imaginary figures. But let them know the truth: that the Santa they see is just someone dressed up, and don’t have them actually believe in their hearts the other legends. One day they will grow up and realize what you taught them as truth about Santa was not true, and they may also doubt if what you taught them about Jesus is.
Instead, let them know that the real Saint Nicholas was born around 280 A.D. in Asia Minor. He later became the Pastor of a Church in Myra in modern day Turkey. We are told he endured persecution and imprisonment by Roman emperors for his faith, and was a defender of Jesus, even attending the famous council of Nicea. He is also known for being a generous gift giver, including giving the wealthy inheritance he received from his parents away to help others. There is even a powerful story about how he rescued three girls who were so destitute that they were going to be forced into prostitution by buying their freedom. May God give Christian parents wisdom to help their children this Christmas!
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