A few weeks ago, Sara and I watched the Polar Express. It was my first time to watch it and it was pretty good. It wasn’t spectacular by any means. I can’t remember the specific part of the movie, but there was a place where the elves were trying to determine whether a child was going to get a gift because he had been on the naughty list. I remember my wife and I having a short conversation about that part. It’s one of the elements of the entire Santa myth that is most troublesome to me.
Sara and I haven’t exactly sat down to discuss how we’re going to handle Santa with Titus. He’s three this year and he still really doesn’t know anything about Santa. He knows who he is, we just haven’t talked about him. I don’t have anything against Santa, but I do kind of have a thing against his naughty list. In many ways, it’s completely opposite to the Christian Christmas message. The naughty list feeds an incorrect view of right and wrong. Most people’s worldview states that if they might just get to go to heaven if they’ve been good more than they’ve been bad. I’m not saying that the two are related, but if the loudest message a child hears growing up that they better be good, then they’re probably going to grow up with that bent in life.
The truth is that we’re all on the naughty list. God gave all of us a gift bigger than Santa could ever deliver. God gave us this gift BECAUSE we were on the naughty list. Grace is God’sÂ unmeritedÂ favor and that’s what we have through Jesus.
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I’ve always loved this quote by GK Chesterton about this very thing:
What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.
As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good â€“ far from it.
And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me. . . . What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea.
Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.
Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dollars and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.
– G.K. Chesterton
Though we don’t do Santa with our kids (well — just pretend, as stated here http://differentway4kids.blogspot.com/2010/11/what-do-you-do-with-santa.html), some of our friends do incorporate Santa.
I “interviewed” one such couple. One of the things I love about how they don’t make Santa “works-based.” Just like you said.
I think you’re right Kenny.
The only other thing that I would say:
(grain of salt: I’m not a parent, yet)
is Santa might quickly be defined for Titus by someone else if you don’t chat about it soon.
Great perspective and wondering as a someday parent where people land on the Santa thing.
As always, you have great insight. Thanks for sharing!
I had my four year old in worship with me on Sunday and she was being particularly grumpy and obstinate. A sweet, sweet man who is her friend’s grandfather tried to help by sitting down and giving her a big speech about how Santa was coming this week so she needed to act better. :). Really? I don’t want Santa to be her motivation for behaving in church. :). I think it is easy to fall into the trap of “if you don’t behave you won’t get presents” but not sure that helps our kids develop the best perspectives long term.