Warning: I’m about to be real honest about Santa Claus. My intention is not to wreck anyone’s Christmas or offend those that adore this Coca Cola icon. Behind the bright red suit, flying reindeer, mysterious naughty/nice list, and nostalgia lies a real person with an incredible story. If I was Nicholas, I would want someone to say what I am about to.
Ol’ Saint Nick might just punch us all in the face for the way we’ve hijacked his identity and twisted it to be the antithesis of what he really stood for. Let’s look for a second at the real person behind the mythological man that might slide down your chimney in a couple days.
The Real Story
Nicholas was born in Turkey during the third century. In order to keep this short and readable, here are a few things that we know about him….
- Nicholas was born into a family of Christians that taught him to follow Christ
- Both of his parents died in an epidemic leaving him wealthy and alone
- Nicholas used his money for God’s glory….giving it to those who were in need around him
- He became the Bishop at Myra
- He suffered for his faith in Jesus under the Roman emperor Diocletian.
- He lead the church through persecution
- He was imprisoned and beaten and tortured for the faith
- Nicholas was present at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD
- He is reported to have stood in opposition to Arius and the notion that Christ was not eternal but rather created….at one point the conversation got heated and he punched Arius in the face!
- Died on December 6, 343 AD
- Judging by the fruit of his life, he is in heaven with the Lord.
Here we have a man that loved and genuinely followed Jesus, used his money for God’s glory, stood firm in his faith in the midst of physical persecution, lead the church faithfully, was willing to fight against a heresy that he thought would wreck the church, and died at the end of a long faithful life. This is a man worth celebrating!! He is worth remembering and honoring and imitating. The problem is that this dude doesn’t show up anywhere in our celebrations of Christmas.
Let’s look at the Santa that dominates the landscape during this season.
- This Santa is a big chubby white guy in a bright red suit
- His whole existence is tied up in judging kids behavior, producing toys, and delivering the goods on Christmas day.
- He flies through the sky with reindeer and a sleigh.
- He lives at the North Pole and is everlasting….Coca Cola iconized him the 30s but he will never die.
- He gives toys to “good” kids and nothing or coal to “bad” kids
- He never follows through with this threat…..which is really just a means of behavior modification by parents
I know, I know. I can feel the rage building. Look, my point is not to kill Christmas….stay with me for a second while I make you a little more upset.
Here are a few of the general pushbacks on taking an honest stance when it comes to Santa.
Magic of Christmas - “You’re robbing the magic of Christmas” or “This is harmless fun”
We have to watch it here. What is “the magic of Christmas”? Is that “magic” the gleam in a kids eye when they see all their new toys or participate in family traditions or hear some sleigh bells on the roof? Shouldn’t that awe and mystery be filled by the crazy reality that God came to us as a baby? This is the most unfathomable miracle in all of the Bible! I think Saint Nick would be much more interested in celebrating the birth of the Christ child than squeezing down the chimney to give little Johnny another Xbox game.
Innocence VS Forgiveness - “This is harmless fun, let innocence be”
What makes us think that our kids are innocent? Believing in a mythical figure that brings you toys isn’t innocent. All our kids are doing is believing the lies that we tell them until they’re old enough to figure out that it’s all made up. This is where the problem arises. You see our kids are natural born sinners that are not innocent by any estimation. Their deepest need is for forgiveness…..forgiveness that come through the blood of the man who’s birth we’re celebrating at Christmas. We do them a great injustice when we go to great lengths to feed their “innocence” while neglecting to teach them about the birth of the very one who can rescue them.
Egocentric VS Theocentric - “Christmas is about family and tradition and fun times”
The birth of the Son of God is not about me or my kids. It is about God’s redemptive plan for His people. God steps into human history as a baby to live a sinless life and be a substitutionary sacrifice. God is the hero of the story here. We do violence to the Gospel when we reorient Christmas to be centered on getting kids junk they don’t need rather than worshipping God for His absurd display of compassion and provision for mankind.
Here’s the deal….when you jack with the Gospel I get upset. Celebrate memorial day or valentine’s day or birthdays any way you want. I’m not mad at you. I believe that the way that Christians celebrate both the birth (Christmas) and the death/resurrection (Easter) of Christ is massively significant. We cannot sit back and just accept the cultural norms surrounding these celebrations as if it has no bearing on our children and on our churches.
I don’t want to just kick Ol’ Nick around and not offer what I believe to be a healthy alternative. When it comes to any celebration or holiday we have three options in how we navigate through them.
Accept it - Just roll on with what the culture around you is doing and have a good time.
Reject it - Recognize that a particular celebration or holiday is incongruent with a Biblical worldview and step away quietly.
Redeem it - Redeem the particular celebration or holiday and speak a better word into it. Use the celebration to build relationships, demonstrate hope, or tell a good story.
So how do we redeem Santa Claus?
Be honest. Teach your kids about who this great saint of old really was. Tell them that he loved Jesus, used his money for God’s glory, endured persecution, and wasn’t afraid of a fight. All kids…..most kids…..like make believe. Tell them exactly what’s going on behind the bright red suit and terribly fake beard….that we like dressing up like Santa and having fun. You can celebrate Christmas without perpetuating the junk about reindeer and chimneys and bringing your kids all kinds of toys. Teach your kids about God’s great gift and help them think how they can give some good gifts.
When we actually make Christmas about the birth of Christ it is an incredibly healthy and exciting thing to celebrate. It is so liberating to not feel the pressure to go into debt to buy excessive amounts of unnecessary things for each other. An honest Christmas is such a good and wholesome thing. It provides incredible teachable moments that we can seize for the sake of the Gospel. We just have to be intentional with how we celebrate.
I think Saint Nick would weep if he stepped into our current celebration of Christmas. He would be furious at the things done in his name…things that distract masses of people from the very thing we should be celebrating. Ol’ Nick wasn’t too afraid of a fight either…you better watch out….He might just pop you in the nose when He comes down the chimney in a few days.
- Matt Brewer -