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Got a question about Christmas for The Mailbag? Send it in!

 

As Christian parents, is it OK for us to tell our children about Santa Claus?

Christmastime can be so much fun when you have children. Many of us remember the excitement of Santa, the Christmas tree, and presents from our own childhood. They’re happy memories, and we want to recreate those for our children.

But as Christian parents, our first priority isn’t fun, it’s obedience to Scripture. Yet is there a way to make Christmas merry for our children while still upholding God’s Word? Is Santa patently unbiblical?

No, he doesn’t have to be, as long as he keeps his sleigh parked inside the parameters of Scripture. Let’s take a look at some of the ways Santa can be unscripturally naughty, and how godly parents can keep him nice and biblical.

Santa Claus isn’t real. If you tell your children he is, or that he is the one who brings their presents, or that he knows whether they’ve been naughty or nice, you’re lying. The Bible says that lying is a sin, period. There’s no exception for jolly old elves who pass out toys (or for tooth fairies or Easter bunnies, either, for that matter). And not only is lying a sin, it is extraordinarily hypocritical to lie to your children about Santa Claus and then turn around later and punish them when they lie about something. Lying to your children about Santa Claus teaches them that it’s OK to lie (i.e. sin) when you want to or when it would be to your advantage.

Don’t lie to your children about Santa Claus. Tell them the truth: he’s a fun, fictional character that we can enjoy reading stories and singing songs about, just like Goldilocks or Superman or Old MacDonald. As for the presents, maybe you’d like to handle it similarly to the way my husband and I did with our children. When they were very small, my husband or I would don a Santa hat on Christmas Eve and say something like: “You know how you like to play pretend? Well, mommies and daddies like to play pretend, too, especially at Christmas! Now it’s time for you to go to bed so we can pretend to be Santa Claus.”

Santa Claus isn’t omniscient. 

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good, for goodness’ sake!¹

Uh uh. No way. Omniscience is an incommunicable attribute of God. He is the only One who has the power to see and know all things, and it is an insult and an affront to Him to even suggest that a mere mortal – let alone a fictional character – has the same power and knowledge that He has. In reverence and awe for God’s preeminence, we should never ascribe to others the things that belong to God alone.

Teach your children about the attributes of God. When you read your children stories about Santa Claus or hear Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town on the radio, it’s a perfect opportunity to teach them about God’s omniscience and power. “Did y’all just hear that? That song said Santa Claus can see you and knows how you’re behaving. Is that true? Who is the only One who always sees you, cares for you, and knows what you’re doing and thinking? Can anybody else besides God do that?”

Santa Claus teaches works righteousness. In St. Nick’s economy, good behavior earns a reward (presents). Bad behavior earns punishment (coal). If you’ve ever shared the gospel with anybody, that will probably sound familiar. Most lost people think that’s what Christianity is. If you’re a “good person” God is happy with you and you’ll go to Heaven. Hell is the punishment for “bad people”: Hitler, murderers, and rapists. This is not what the Bible teaches, either about salvation, or about why children should obey their parents.

Teach your children the gospel. Again, this whole “naughty or nice” part of the Santa Claus narrative is a perfect gospel-teaching opportunity. Take advantage of it! Ask your child to be “nice” for one whole day. At bed time, take a few minutes to talk about the times she messed up and was “naughty” when she was supposed to be trying to be “nice.” Nobody can be nice and obedient all the time, no matter how hard we try. We are all naughty, coal black sinners deserving the punishment of Hell. Jesus came and lived a life of perfect “niceness,” died on the cross to take the punishment for our naughtiness, was buried, and rose again. He did that, not because we earned it with good behavior, but because of His mercy and grace. And then He gave us the greatest gift ever. A gift we naughty people don’t deserve: salvation and eternal life in Heaven. And it is because of our love and gratitude to Christ for saving us that we obey Him, not so that He will give us what we want. Indeed, the Bible tells us that the more obedient to Christ we are, the more persecution we will face.

Santa Claus doesn’t automatically have to be on the Christian parent’s naughty list. There are lots of ways to enjoy the fun of Santa and even turn him into an opportunity to teach your child biblical truth, all while being obedient to Scripture. But if Santa makes you biblically uncomfortable in some way, then by all means, don’t go against your conscience. Whichever way you decide – after prayer, study of the Scriptures, and discussing it with your spouse – do not judge other Christian parents by your personal convictions about Santa Claus. And have a Merry Christmas!

¹Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie, 1934.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

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