Inspired by some of the posts on Christmas and Santa by members of MBCC over on the church blog, I have been doing quite a bit of surfing and I figured the pastor should weigh in on the whole “What do we do with Santa during Christmas?” question. Ahhhh the burden of spiritual leadership 😉
Get ready for some disappointment . . .
As we all know, this is a debate that can go on and on and on and . . . Some folks I really think put WAY too much energy into issues like this. We have all had the theoretical conversations out loud and in our heads both as children as well as adults. And just like trying to nail down answers about one’s faith, there are no easy or RIGHT answers, just the journey towards the truth.
I know folks will disagree, so let me start by saying that, JUST LIKE GOD, I will find a way to still love you if you disagree 😉 In fact, I will love you so much that I will help to start your children’s therapy fund if they are are scarred by the two extremes that I have heard read about in many of the conversations about Santa:
I HEART SANTA– They are crushed by their parents destruction of all things red, jolly and generous during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, or;
- SANTA AS SUGAR DADDY – They become greedy little spoiled brats who know nothing of justice, compassion, generosity and gratitude.
On my first run through this post I thought about beginning with a lengthy diatribe on why I think the two extremes are flawed and my nuanced path of moderation through the gray is a far better approach.
Questions that run through my head as each talks to their children,
For you Santa-Haters, “And by the way [insert child’s name here], I’ve been meaning to talk to you about Elmo. He really is just a big red furry sock with some guys hand up his backside. Please don’t watch him because his is just one more way “The Man” (Mr. Rogers maybe?) is trying to keep you down by luring you into this so-called “Elmo’s World” with promises of tickles and dancing and away from the real work of Jesus Christ.”
And for you Santa-Lovers, “So, [insert child #2’s name here] you do know that your mother and I are a lot like Santa. Just like Santa won’t give you gifts if you are on the naughty list, we will withhold all our love and care unless you are good. This is a meritocracy, after all we are in America! In fact, you will be able to tell exactly HOW much we love you by how much stuff you accumulate, now go be good and get lots of stuff. We love you, now here’s a toy.
And as much as I would like to keep entertaining myself by poking fun at the extremes, I think it is better to explain, Why Santa is still welcome at Our Home . . .
Spirit of the Spirit – I think there are different battles that each parent will choose to fight against society and culture. For us, this is not one. There are far more things about the Santa experience that are positive than negative. Some of the things we learn from Santa as well as Elmo, Mr. Rogers, Dora, Blue and the rest . . .
- Imagination and Play;
- Generosity and Gratitude;
- Hospitality and Community;
No human creation is purely evil or purely good and the Saint Nicholas story is no different. Humans distort the truth, manipulate intent for their own good or just don’t get it, but somehow I think God still moves in and among all human history to give us glimpses of the goodness that we are capable of. Just like in my faith tradition, while I think that the Puratins took John Calvin to a rigid extreme, that does not mean that all of their beliefs were misguided. And don’t even get me started on what we do with Jesus . . .
There will be a time – There will be a time when every child discovers the “Truth” about Santa. I firmly believe, however, that one of the greatest responsibilities that we have as parents is be developmentally appropriate with our children. We need to allow children to move from concrete to complex in their ways of thinking and understanding. I kind of liken it to stages of Bible study, moving from very concrete understandings of Scripture, “God created the Earth, PERIOD” to a more complex understanding of Scripture, “Evolution AND Creation are not mutually exclusive.” Truth and what we get out of our perspective of that Truth changes as we grow in our ability to understand, absorb and be transformed by the complexities and nuances of the very Truth that we search for.
Santa for a Season, Jesus for a Lifetime – I actually am not sure Jesus would care much about this as long as we understand that at its best, Santa is one manifestation of something good. But, as soon as we worship him (Yes, some will say we already do that.) then we have crossed a line. The biggest way that we draw the difference is by being intentional about what we focus on. For Santa it is the generosity and gratitude during this season; for Jesus is it the unconditional love and presence for a lifetime. We don’t focus so much on the the “Only if you are good” thing, though it is a motivator, but more on what we do after we receive these gifts . . . in gratitude for the gifts we receive we go into the world to serve. Yes, even Santa can help us get back to God.
Now please do not take any of this as a holier than thou kind of rant, because God knows that the line is difficult sometimes: the pile of presents we really
don’t need, the money that is spent, the pressures of getting the right
gift, the school yard comparisons, etc. All valid issues with the secular Christmas and ones that we must navigate with wisdom.
In the end parenting and how we choose to raise our children, encourage their exploration and help them grow into who and who God intends, must be done with with care. For if we are all indeed created by God as special and unique each child is unique and each parent is unique. Ultimately we must all discern how best to parent our children and the children of the world so that no matter where you are on this issue or others, we may parent them forward in their faith as we too are transformed by the process of parenting itself.
Don’t forget to put out the cookies . . . .