I had almost forgotten about Santa Claus. But there he is, around ever corner again…saying Ho Ho Ho; shaking his hips in the Garden Center at Wal-Mart; ringing his bell outside every major department store. He is hard to ignore this time of year.
In spite of the difficulty, however, Tobey and I have decided not to do the Santa thing with our kids—not simply because it isn’t true, or to avoid the big let down around age seven—but because Santa seems to detract a whole bunch of attention from Jesus this time of year. Kids—even church kids!—are so wrapped up in what they might get from ‘Santa’ that they almost forget what God Himself has given—even though they could give you all the right Sunday School answers about the meaning of Christmas!
We have a chance to really capture the Christmas season to teach our children about the wonders of the incarnation of Christ, but we are so often hijacked by a jolly old man and eight tiny reindeer! So we’ve gotten stubborn. Call us Scrooges if you like…but our kids’ Christmas (and our own) is going to be about Jesus if we have anything to say about it!
If you’re just starting out, or early enough in the game, I’d recommend the same course of action to you. I believe our kids (mainly Julia right now) are more excited about Jesus and the manger and the wise men and Christmas than I ever was. The main reason for that is because we have, by God’s grace, made an intentional effort to teach the incarnation to them. But a secondary reason is because there has been no competing story…no competing Christmas hero to deal with. So, in our little experiment, Christmas has actually been more fun without red-suits, reindeer, and elves!
But what will we do when Julia and Andrew notice (as they inevitably will) that this chubby old man in a red suit seems to pop up at every turn each December? What are we going to tell them? Well, rather than coming across like scrooges (‘we don’t believe in Santa!') or pretending like it is nothing—which will only make them more interested—we’re going to tell them about the real St. Nick…
Saint Nikolas was a wealthy 4th century resident of modern-day Turkey. But when he was saved by Jesus, He determined from that day forward to give his money away to the poor. On one occasion he heard about a man who was so poor that he was contemplating selling his daughters as prostitutes just to keep them all from starving. So Nikolas secretly snuck to the man’s house by night three different times. The first two times he dropped a bag of gold through the window. But, as the story goes, the third night the window was closed. So he climbed up on the roof and dropped it through the chimney. And so the legend of Santa Claus was born.
But, you see, the real Santa Claus was not a magical man with toys galore and infinite ability to deliver them. Rather, he was an average man who met Jesus and had the attitude of generosity within himself that is so perfectly displayed in Jesus.
Isn’t that a great story? Wouldn’t it be a great story/lesson for your children to learn? And wouldn’t it provide a quick, effective, and honest way to get your children’s attention back from the man in the red suit to the Child in the manger?