18 December 2008

the s word~

**I've recently realized that some of my friends read these notes on Facebook. I just wanted to say really quick, that I'm not sure if you can tell through the format on Facebook, but I actually write these notes on my blog, and they post on FB as well. Sometimes the formatting comes through differently on FB, so if something looks funny, or if you just want to see the blog, the link is somewhere under my wall, or profile, or somewhere :o)

So anyway, back to the s word. Not stupid, or shutup, or especially not that other one. Those are all no, nos around here. I'm talking about him. About Santa. Now, before you remember my "halloween is evil" post and choose to read no further, hear me out. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say up front that we do not "do" Santa. But I'm not going to go completely all "Santa is evil and you're not a real Christian if you tell your kids about him" on you, so give me a few minutes. And of course I would love to hear your thoughts, so leave me a comment.

This is one of the questions I was recently asked, and I actually get asked a couple of times every year.

"Quick question. What's your take on Santa? Do y'all "do" Santa? I know you had strong feeling about halloween (understandably) so I just wondered what you thought about Santa. Just curious :)"

Good question, I'm so glad you asked ;o)

So no, we do not tell our children that Santa is real. There are really a lot of reasons why we made this decision, and this was actually one of the things we discussed before we had children. Both of us agreed we would not teach our children that Santa was real and there were basically two reasons.

First of all, Glen grew up in a home where they didn't "do" Santa. I've never actually asked his Mom why, so I'm not sure if it was because of religious/spiritual convictions, or if it was because his father was seriously ill throughout much of his childhood, causing finances to be very tight. His Dad then died when he was seven, and many years, their only Christmas came through church or friends.

My experience had been the opposite. Santa was HUGE in our house. Huge. We also lived next door to my grandmother, two great aunts, and my aunt, none of whom were married and all of whom worked. They all lived together so had lots of disposable income, as well as lots of credit cards. So we had family gifts on Christmas Eve, and Santa gifts on Christmas morning. Both times the living room was so full of presents for me and my two sisters that there was just enough room to sit and that was it. It was ridiculous. My family went out of their way to convince us he was real. We had be asleep by midnight, or (gasp!) he might not come! I was the last kid I knew to still believe in Santa. I vividly remember thinking surely my parents would not lie to me, so even though all my friends said he wasn't real, I still believed. Of course my parents always said Christmas was about Jesus, but that's not what it looked like it was about to me. It was all about him. And then, once we were older, my parents tried to incorporate Advent and actually make Jesus' coming to earth for us an integral part of our celebration, my sisters and I wanted no part of it. Advent devotionals were boring when you could be looking through catalogs and making Christmas lists.

So that's where we started. Of course, my family was not happy. They still think we've gone off the deep end, but that really comes from our lifestyle choices in general, the Santa thing just being one of many ways we are weird. And now that my sister has a baby, we are under strict orders that no one is to tell her the truth. The truth? Saying it that way sounds almost convicting, doesn't it? I'm not picking on my sister or anyone else.
We are one of very few families we know that don't do Santa, and I completely understand and respect her and her husband's desire to make Santa a fun part of Christmas for their family, so I have no intention of undermining them, or anyone else's children either. Our kids know that they are pretty much the only ones that know that know the truth, and have done a pretty good job and just keeping their lips sealed when the Santa topic comes up.

As we've grown and learned and read, we've come to a much deeper conviction regarding Santa than we started out with. My experience with Santa worship fun in Christmas would probably not have been enough to leave us with a lasting conviction to leave him out. After all, we could choose to not make receiving gifts such a huge part of Christmas, we could do it smaller. So why make the decision to yet another thing different from everyone around us? I mean, it's so much fun. Shouldn't we just lighten up? Is it really necessary to deprive our children of this childhood right? It's not a big deal. Really.

Humor me while I share a few thoughts.

First of all, what is our ultimate goal in raising our children? That they would love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, right? That they would trust Jesus to be their Savior. So every decision we make should really be viewed in light of this goal.

So how does Santa fit in?
He's just a fun tradition that really only comes up for a month or two out of each year.

In order for us to teach and disciple our children, we need to have their hearts. They need to trust us. Completely. I've never been one to put a lot of stock in the argument that our children will not trust us that Jesus is real if they find out we've lied about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, etc. but I've heard enough reports from other parents to know that for some kids this is a real issue. I would think that if you are raising your children in an environment that makes Jesus the center of life in general, where it really is all about Him, that your children would see the difference. But it is something to think about.

So what next? I'm not going to get into the arguments Christmas being a pagan holiday. Truthfully, I've not researched it a lot, but I have done enough investigating that you can pretty much find persuasive arguments to support both sides of the controversy. I'm not discussing Christmas, just Santa. So here is some of what I've learned.

Have you ever taken the time to consider the similarities between Jesus and Santa, yet the different messages each story sends?

1. We teach our children that Santa is always watching, to see if they are bad or good. Do you want your children living to please the Lord, or being good so they can get presents? Do you want your children to be taught that Santa is all seeing, and all knowing, just like God, but later have to tell them, "Well, you know, Santa doesn't really do those things, but you should still believe that God does?"

2. With Santa, we teach them that through their behavior, they can "earn" rewards. But they better not cry, or pout, or too bad for them. I want my children to know they can never earn the reward of eternal life, they can never be good enough on their own. I want them to know that every good gift comes from the Father of Lights, and it is his gift of grace to us. We cannot be "good" enough. And again, do I want them to learn to choose obedience (goodness) because they are trying to earn a reward, or do I want it to come out of love for what Jesus did for them?

3. Did you know that Kriss Kringle is German for "little Christ Child?" Hmmm. Which leads me to make another point.

4. In teaching our children about Santa, we are essentially teaching the a gospel entirely different than the true gospel. What is the gospel? The Good News! That Jesus died that we might receive the ultimate gift, the undeserved gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. When we teach our children about Santa, are we not teaching an opposite gospel? That we will receive good gifts based on *our* ability to be good? We are teaching them that they can earn their gifts and that when they receive them, it must be because they have earned them and that they deserve them.

Galatians 1: 6-11...

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally comdemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up."

It is no secret that Satan has taken hold of so many things that were meant for good and perverted them to draw attention away from the Father and draw men's hearts away from the Lord. Not to get too "conspiracy theory" on you, but it is a valid point. I really believe Satan has found much pleasure in making the focus of Christmas on self, stuff, consumerism, you name it. And I believe that He takes particular delight when the foundational years of our children are spent teaching them a myth, causing the focus to be on gimme, gimme, gimme, when we could instill in them a thankfulness and awe toward what it really meant for God to become man and dwell among us. Even in our home, where our children don't believe in Santa but gifts are still given, from us and extended family, it is nearly impossible to really give the Lord the honor and thankfulness He deserves. I am not blaming children for being excited, it is certainly normal for them to be excited over presents, but long term, we feel that any spotlight that could have been given to Jesus is overwhelming stolen by Santa.

Our God is a jealous God. In Exodus 34:14 , God calls Himself by the actual name "Jealous." He does not want His glory usurped by another. If I teach my children to believe in Santa and all his magic, in all of his god-like qualities, am I not giving my God, my Savior's glory to another?

I truly believe Satan, in his efforts to "become like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:12-14) he has created Santa and caused the majority of the world to celebrate him, in one form or another. Whether it be St Nick (yes, I know the history of this and have taught it to the children), Kriss Kringle, or good ol Santa Claus.

If you don't believe Satan has set himself (in the idol of Santa) to be like the Most High, this numerous list of similarities will surprise you...

God the Father has hair like white wool (Revelation 1:14)

God the Father has a beard (Isaiah 50:6)

Jesus will come in a red garment (Isaiah 63:1-2)

The hour of His coming is a mystery

God comes from the North where He lives (Ezekiel 1:4, Psalm 48:2)

Jesus was a carpenter, Santa is a toy carpenter

Jesus will come just like a thief in the night, Santa comes like a thief in the night

God is omnipotent (all powerful - Revelation 19:6), Santa is all powerful, He can fly around the world and visit every single home in one night, delivering gifts to every single child (as long as their parents can afford it)

God is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-10, Ephesians 4:6, John 3:13), Santa can see and hear everything as well.

God is omniscient (knows all - Hebrews 4:13, I John 3:20), Santa knows if you've been bad or good

God is ageless and eternal (Revelation 1:8, 21:6), Santa lives forever

God is a Giver of Gifts (Ephesians 4:8)

God sits on a throne, Santa sits on a throne when our children come before him

We are to boldly go before the throne of grace for our requests (Hebrews 4:16), children are told to boldly approach Santa on his throne to present their requests.

God commands children to obey their parents, so does Santa

Jesus wants the little children to come to him (Mark 10:14), Santa (and parents) tell the little children to come to him.

God judges, Santa judges whether children have been good or bad.

God is the Everlasting Father, Santa calls himself Father Christmas

Jesus is the Christ Child, Santa calls himself Kriss Kringle (Christ child)

God is worthy of our prayers and worship, in some countries, children are taught to pray to St. Nick/Nicholas

God is the Lord of Hosts, Santa is lord over a host of elves (and in Druidic religion, elves are demons)

God says, "Ho, ho" (Zechariah 2:6, really, look it upin the KJV)

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and the Image of God, Santa is a symbol of world peace and the image of the Christmas holiday.

Jesus said, "Ask, and it shall be given to you." Does Santa not say the same thing?

(credit goes to Hampshire View Baptist Deaf Church for most of this list.)

Amazing, huh? I can't help but read these and be amazed at how blatantly Satan has tried to masquerade as an angel of light, to pull the wool over our eyes, to set himself up as God in the hearts of our children. All while convincing the Church, God's people, that it's all in good fun. I know it's unpopular to not teach your children to believe in Santa, but as Christians we are expressly called to be in the world but not of it. That means doing unpopular things and taking unpopular stances sometimes. I don't want to take away fun from my children, I just view it in light of teaching them to always, always, set Christ up in their hearts as Lord. For Him to be first. For there to be no other, and for all competition to be recognized and dealt with.

Think about your experience with Santa vs your experience with God as a child. For most of us, Santa was jolly good fun, a great alternative to God, who was very powerful and kind of scary. And not only were they both watching to see if you are bad or good, but God might squash you if you are bad. (Do you not think Satan takes great delight in this?)

For a really good, in depth study, check out Santa Claus: The Great Imposter.

Another thing I think about, unrelated to faith, is the disparity between what children receive. How does little Johnny feel when his friend gets everything on his list, but all his Mom can afford Santa gives him is one or two small toys and a sweater?

It is so much not my heart to condemn, criticize, or point fingers. I hope you know that. It is my heart that we as mothers teach our children to love the Lord first of all, and most of all, and that you would be encouraged to follow the Lord even when it's hard, even when it goes against culture. Especially when it goes against the world, for that is when it is usually vital. When it really matters.

In closing, let me ask you, are you resisting this idea? Justifying it? Rationalizing it? Calling it "condemnation" so that's a good enough reason to say it's not from God? Did it make you mad? Frustrated? Do you feel judged? (Please don't feel like I'm judging you!) But if you have felt any of these things, take a minute to ask yourself why. Actually stop for a minute, and figure out why. Now, is that a good reason to throw it out without even considering it, praying about it, and talking with your husband about it? Are you willing to really listen to what God might want you to do, should He possibly be asking you to reconsider the idea of teaching your children about Santa? All I ask is that you be willing to listen to Him if He is trying to tell you something. That's all.

Here are a few Scripture to give you something to consider the Santa thing in light of...

"You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." Mark 7:8

And He said to them, "You have a fine way of setting aside the command of God in order to observe your own traditions." Mark 7:9

Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that. Mark 7:13

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human traditions and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form..." Colossians 2:9

So in our house, this is what Christmas looks like. We do a Jesse Tree. This teaches our kids a different Name of God, attribute of God, or sometimes a Bible story that points to Jesus a the Savior every day from 1 Dec to Christmas Day. They learn that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, that God using Noah was a picture of how He would one day send Jesus, why Jesus is said to come from the root of Jesse, and lots of other things. That link can explain it and they even sell the supplies if you're interested.

We keep December simple. We don't do lots of parties or outside activities. We want to be able to enjoy the Advent season, and when we are overwhelmed and consumed by outside things, the month becomes overloaded, frantic, and just plain too busy to be able to focus on Emmanuel, God With Us. God With Us. Wow.

On Christmas Eve, we get together with my family and exchange gifts. Until this year, our children were the only children on my side of the family, with lots of aunts, uncles, and grandparents waiting eagerly to lavish our deprived precious children with junk gifts. This year they have a new little cousin, and really, I would be thrilled if maybe all the gifts could go to her instead ;o) Keep in mind, these are the same family members that overloaded my sisters and me, Two, even three gifts per child would make me happy. Absolutely thrilled. We're talking at least twenty gifts per child, no joke. Times six kids. Times however many parts and pieces each gift has. If you don't hear from me until February, someone come rescue me because I am probably suffocating under a large pile of toys. I am thankful, but this is excessive. Now you know what we're up against.

Anyway, at some point, we get together with Glen's family, and we will also go to Kentucky where all my Dad's family lives. Christmas morning is just us, and each one of our kids gets a couple of small, fun gifts in their stocking, and we usually try and get to be the ones that give them the one thing they are *really* wanting.

So as you can see, they are anything but deprived. Even without Santa, it is an uphill battle to keep the focus on Jesus. I am just trusting the Lord to see our hearts and that He is big enough to work out the rest. His grace. Always.

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julianalovespy said...

Shyla, I love this post. Thank you for all the research gathered together and put in one spot. Great job!

Bella is three this year and old enough to understand things like this. Rob & I have struggled with what to do about Santa as well, and I have always wanted to NOT do Santa because of the lies/truth thing.

This year we are doing Advent for the first time ever and making Christmas all about the birth of Jesus. Next year, I hope to make ornaments & do a Jesse tree as well. We haven't really mentioned Santa to Bella, but somehow she knows enough about him to talk about him. I don't think she gets that he brings presents on Christmas eve, so eventually we will need to deal with that.

My friend from church, who has 7 children (mostly all adults now) gave me some wonderful ideas about how to do Advent. I asked her about Santa and she said that because they were so focused on Advent, (her children had nativity sets & Advent calendars and played with them all through the season and were completely anticipating the birth of Christ), they never really talked much about Santa. He was just a background figure in everything and they didn't care about him.

She said that regarding gifts, they focused on the giving rather than the receiving. She said she got so much joy out of seeing her children give gifts to one another, and although they ended up with several gifts each (9 in their family), she didn't want to deprive any of them of the joy of giving. That really helped me see that the gift portion could really be more about love and not as much about 'consumerism'. I've had a hard time with the number of gifts my husband's family gives us, but this year, I am trying to look at it like they are showering us with love (instead of drowning us in 'things').

I can't imagine having more than one child and getting THAT many gifts each. Very stressful. I would have a very difficult time with that.

May your holiday be JOYFUL and may the God who came to us as a little baby rush into your lives and surround you with Peace, Hope, Joy and Love - the greatest gifts of all.

lillian said...

Sadie and Jackson just think of Santa as some guy who works at the mall. When strangers say things to them like, "You look like you've been good this year, I bet Santa is going to bring you a lot of presents," they just stare blankly.

Wendy said...

Our neighbor gave us a hand-me-down mechanical Santa that scared Joe to death. He doesn't like Santa. :)

My kids know Santa is just pretend, just as my brothers and I did growing up. My mother was distraught when she found out Santa wasn't real, and was very angry at her parents for lying to her. She did, however think it was fun to write 'from Santa' on at least one present to us, and it was alway obvious to us who it was really from.

We have a little advent thing that goes through the story of Christmas as you build the nativity scene.

One thing I hope to do is teach my kids about the real St. Nicholas, not to take the focus off Christ, but to have an example of a man who as a follower of Christ, spent his life as a giver and advocate for those in need. Besides, my maiden name is Nicholas. :)

It is a real struggle for me every year, as we have so much family around, and the kids get so many presents, I have to supress the urge to scream and set fire to them all (the presents, not the family-haha). I also hate the feeling that we are obligated to buy stuff for kids that don't need anything...

Jeanine said...

My kids have to keep quiet about Santa too. We told our oldest when he was 4. He was just starting to really learn about Santa, so we caught it just in time. He wasn't sad or angry, he hadn't had much of a chance to start believing. I want to do a Jessi tree next year, I learned about it a little late for this year.

mamatutwo said...

I love your blog. And I so love the fact that you and your family live what you believe...even in the face of seeming "weird" to your families or others. We're in that boat with you.

We do Santa, but my husband and I seriously discussed it before our first child was born. Especially the issue of truthfulness and how will they believe in Jesus if we weren't totally truthful about Santa (although if asked, I would definitely, and have, spilled the beans).

We've decided to do Santa, though, and for us it works out. Santa, being modeled after Saint Nicholas, really started out as one who gave to those who needed, and we really try to focus on that at Christmas--as well as the rest of the year. Of course, our kids get gifts, and I have really tried to scale that back but am not nearly where I want to be with that. But they work to give gifts to others during this season, and I do think that's what's important. Of course, the most important thing is that they love Jesus and live with Him as the center of their lives. But we are teaching them that they are truly acting as His hands and feet when they give.

This is just skimming over the top. It's late, and I need a shower, but just thought I'd give a little of our version.

Merry Christmas!

Adina said...

My parents didn't incorporate Santa into our traditions so it makes no sense to me to do it with my own children. I think it is relevant to recognise, however, that our current day American Santa came about as the result of a Coca Cola add from about 100 years ago. Many global Christmas traditions actually celebrate St. Nicholas who is actually quite different from "Santa". The legend and history of his life is actually quite relevant to believing families.

HC said...

Wow Shyla, thanks for the research, and also for yet again challenging me, at least, in this area and "why we do the things we do". Although, we've never taught our kids about Santa, as though he were real, we have always let them belive what they want to believe. And if they asked us about him being real we would say, "well, what do you think?"

We only have one left that 'believes' - he is 4 and this is the first year that he really gotten into Santa. I did ask the older kids (9-12) if they ever felt like we had lied to them. They said no.

I have to tell you after reading your blog, and the blogs of others on this subject, I am really feeling convicted. I mean, letting our kids believe what they want (in regards to Santa)?? Isn't that the same as parents who don't teach their kids Christianity, but choose to let their kids believe what they want!!??

I forwarded your blog to my husband and we are going to seriously have to discuss this. We do celebrate the Advent season, but there is so much "Santa" diversion throughout the day, that it can be a challenge to keep the "little one" focused.

Anyway, thanks again for sharing and VERY MUCH for the research, that sealed the deal for me. Like I've said I have read many blogs on this subject, but yours had such profound Biblical truth that I couldn't find an argument!


Joninee said...

It was awesome that you posted the song "Santa Claus is coming to town." We don't do Santa either and we were listening to Christmas music on the radio when that song came on and I was immediately irritated. My oldest children (13 &12) instantly recognized they were singing about the attributes of God yet replacing HIS holy name with Santa.

This time of year is really frustrating for us because even though we've dedicated ourselves to keeping it simple, Christ -centered, and forsaking consumerism; we struggle with feeling of being "the last one picked." Not being a sport type person; I still find myself not wanting to be picked last. Not being a "Santa supporter" I still struggle with NOT going crazy with gifts simply because of peer pressure. This has been my battle every year. Even though we have resolved to make this time of year about Christ, standing "alone" and watching everyone else spend, spend, spend makes it difficult. My prayer is that God would break this "need" and replace it with joy & contented in the precious GIFT He has given. "Joy to the World!"

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for answering my question. once again i am impressed and encouraged by your wisdom and commitment to God. i think that one of the things i admire most about your family is that you are such a great example of being "in the world but not of the world." i love that you know that you do things differently than most, but really don't care. you are so inspiring to me as i feel certain convictions, and am tempted to "fit it" and justify it b/c "everyone's doing it."
so thank you again. :)


Valerie said...

Just a quick comment to say that I am loving this post! I'm not into the whole "s" word either. With all religious matters aside...Matt and I both think it's kind of weird to teach our child to believe whole-heartedly in something that will only disappoint her. I also cannot stand when I hear people say, "Be good, Santa's watching." Uhhh, Drives me bonkers!!
I want my child to believe what I teach her is true. Most importantly, I want her to believe in the miraculous story of Jesus... not of Santa.
Thanks for the awesome post. I've been forwarding it to others like crazy! Hope that's okay??
Christmas Blessings dear Friend.

Lori said...

Dear Shyla, I LOVE you. Thank you for taking the time to research and flesh out the ideas that clank around in my head. When Judah was two, he saw someone dressed as Santa and said to my mom, "Look, Nana! It's Noah!" My mom cracked up. She did the Santa thing with us, and when I discovered the truth, I felt betrayed and angry. I often referred to him as Satan Claus growing up. I'm the only one in my family who is strongly against the Santa tradition, so your post is refreshing and affirming for me. This year, Judah asked me who Santa is, so we looked him up on Wikipedia and I read him the article. Ever since a Messianic Jewish friend said something about people treating Santa as God, I've had new glasses. She would love this post as much as I do. I'll have to pass it on. You're amazing. Thank you again!

The Popes said...

Great post and I love your blog. We just adopted our little girl last year and this was the first Christmas she kind of knew what was going on. We have decided to not "do" Santa either and our friends think we're nuts.
It's partly religious reasons, partly because we think the truth is the most important thing.
We did go see "Santa" just for fun, but I totally plan to teach her he is a character, like in a book.
I'm still not sure how we will handle that all her little friends will be doing "Santa Things", but I'm sure we'll figure it out.
I'm going to use some of your ideas next year to teach her about the real reason for Christmas.
Thank you!

Matthew 18:19 said...

love this post, your research really helped me.

"How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about arithmetic, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness." ~GK Chesterton

2012 November

2012 November