I really thought I could let this go, but I guess I can’t.
Shannon and I don’t spend a lot of time on Santa. Neither do we discourage it. We don’t have the stupid plastic elf in our living room and we have never hung “naughty list” over their heads. But we do take them for a picture with Santa every year and we do place gifts “from Santa” under the tree. We let them believe he’s real.
I’ll probably take some heat for this one, but I don’t care. It’s time to stop the madness. The other day in Sunday school a girl I don’t really know asked the class what their opinion was on Santa, that they weren’t sure what to teach their daughter. The room was kind of mixed. She told us she grew up not believing in Santa but also that she wasn’t popular because she ruined it for other kids. The room hesitantly debated back and forth for a while, but basically said, “It’s up to you.”
And it is up to you what you teach your children about Santa. But frankly, I find the argument that teaching children to believe in Santa will damage their belief in God to be ridiculous. I understand there are extenuating circumstances. I understand some people have a real problem with it. A missionary friend of mine hates the idea of Santa, but he also related a story in which his father shamed him in front of people over his belief in Santa (neither he nor his father were believers at the time.). I completely respect him and his belief. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to follow his advice, because my experience was different, and I will make sure my children’s experience is different.
I don’t remember when I discovered the truth about Santa (this should be testimony in itself at how little it affected my relationship with Jesus), but I do remember my mother’s acknowledgement of it. I was twelve or thirteen. It was around midnight on Christmas Eve and my mother and I were the last two up. She was stuffing the stockings, and when she realized I was still up she said something to the effect of “I guess you know now.” I said sure. She said, “don’t tell your little brother.” I said okay. And then she asked, “you want to help?” It’s a great Christmas memory of mine, getting to help with the stockings that night. There’s real magic in it for me. I simply never associated belief in Santa with belief in God. I think it has something to do with the fact that my parents never made a big deal out of it either. They didn’t discourage it, but they didn’t sell it.
On another note, I find it fascinating that parents who so vehemently oppose Santa because he’s “not real” have no problem inviting talking hamsters and turtles into their homes everyday. There’s no guy in a red suit that delivers presents, but mice and ducks can use “mousekatools” sing “Hot Dog Hot Dog Hot Diggity Dog”.
I do believe in these things. I believe in talking clown fish and families with super powers. I believe in the power their stories have to impact my life and teach me things about being a good husband, a good father, a good person, a good writer. And I believe in the power of Santa Claus. I particularly believe in the origin stories about a Turkish Bishop, whether they are all rooted in fact or not. I also believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, including Genesis 1-12. You can’t start reading the Bible before there are seeming contradictions. Right up front, right at the very beginning, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 have conflicting accounts of creation. How can I believe both? Because I believe in the God who chose to write the story of His love for us as a narrative and not as a textbook. Because I believe that God likes a good story and He made us to be like Him. We are each of us created with the need for narrative, to tell and have told good stories.
There was one good thing I took out of Sunday school that morning. George, our intrepid teacher and host said this when speaking of how discovering the truth about Santa might cause doubt in God: “My father (a Baptist minister) said it’s good to doubt. I doubt a lot, and it’s a good thing.”
From doubt comes belief. Henry Blackaby in “Experiencing God” calls it the “crisis of belief”. We all at one moment or another have to decide if we believe something is true in the face of uncertainty and make a decision based on it. Doubt is good because it forces us to examine what we believe and why. I have doubted the existence of God many more times than is probably wise to admit, but I’m still here, because each of those times has only served to deepen my faith in Him. Because I’ve wrestled with Him through long nights and cried out in desperation “I will not let you go unless you bless me!” All this leads me to say: if you’re worried that your children’s belief in God will be shaken by Santa, maybe you should examine why this is. How much doubt have you wrestled through? How much are you modeling the Relationship? Are you merely talking about God or are you showing them God with your life?
Every night that my family has been able to sit down to dinner together in the month of December, Asher looks at me and says “Can you tell us the words again?” I say, “what words?”
Asher: About Christmas
Me: What about Christmas?
Asher: It means giving.
Me: What else?
This three year-old, my Asher-the-Big-Basher, goes rabid at the mention of Santa and wants to make sure the milk we leave out for him is chocolate. But every night wants to talk about Christmas in relation to giving and Jesus. He will tell you Christmas is about giving because the wise men came to give presents to Jesus, not get them, and that we should do the same. It’s a good story.
This thing’s full of theological holes and wanders all over the place, but I don’t care. Raising kids is messy business.
2 months ago