The Santa Question

December 16, 2014

Santa (Rockwell)

Years ago, as a newly minted minister in my first year out of seminary, I made an off-the-cuff comment in one of my Christmas season messages.  I don’t recall exactly what I said, but it was something to the effect of: “I don’t really care what you do with Santa”.  My intent was to demonstrate that Christmas Santa is nothing when compared to the Christmas Child – Jesus.

Honestly, I thought I made my point. If I had it to do over – and I do get to do it over every year – I would still say the same thing. But not everyone shares my perspective on this issue.

The next day, along with our regular mail, in our mailbox was a hand delivered, unstamped letter, from a man in the congregation.  It was thick. Nearly 10 pages – each of which made the same point from various angles: I had been derelict in my responsibility to the congregation by giving any wiggle room for families to include Santa Claus in their Christmas traditions.  At least that was his take. (Frankly, he was a pretty uptight guy about a lot of issues.)  Believe it or not, he even used the lame “Re-arrange the letters of Santa = Satan” rationale.

While my view has not changed, and I would still not hesitate to say something similar in a Christmas message, what has changed is my appreciation that not everyone shares my view on this matter.  And over the years I have been asked a number of times by conscientious parents how Christian families should deal with the Santa Question. I try to be more sensitive to the fact that there are several appropriate perspectives.

I recently read a piece by John Murchison touching on this very subject. He observes: “As parents who want our kids to worship Jesus and have fun at Christmas, it can be hard to know if Santa should be included in our traditions, and if so, to what degree.”  I agree.

Murchison observes, “I know of four different types of families when it comes to Santa”:

  • Families who do not include Santa in any of their Christmas celebrations
  • Families who tell their kids up front that Santa is “a fun game that we all play at Christmas”
  • Families who focus on the “historical” Santa, St. Nick
  • Families who go all-in on Santa

Murchison concludes: “I believe that any of these options can be valid options for a family, as long as two guidelines are followed”:

  1. Jesus must be more prominent in your home than Santa at Christmas.
  2. When “the Santa question” comes, don’t lie to your kids.

I concur. Murchison wisely and concisely gives counsel, without elevating his own view.

In our home, we never really did anything with Santa.  We never encouraged belief in him, nor did we ever instruct our children against him. Never did they receive a gift with Santa’s name on the tag.  While our children were certainly aware of Santa because of the symbols that permeate our culture this time of year, not the least of which are the Christmas season television specials, which we did allow them to watch if they wanted, none of our kids ever really thought much about Santa.  Our focus was always on God’s gift to us in the sending of his Son. (See Galatians 4.4-5)

I appreciate Murchison’s ultimate insight, which is in line with the counsel I would want to offer to anyone wondering about The Santa Question:

As long as you’re praying, reading Scripture, and searching out wise counsel, then I believe that you should follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the convictions that He places on your hearts.

And like Murchison, “I pray that our homes will be filled with talk of Jesus and His birth this season, whatever you decide about Santa.”

To read John Murchison’s article, click: The Santa Question

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