My husband bought me a really cool gift this year. It’s something I’ve always wanted. And it makes a statement, telling everyone who drives by my house how I feel about Santa Claus. My gift was a large figure for my yard – Santa Claus kneeling in worship before the Christ child.
It’s no secret that I love the legend of St. Nicholas. I posted several Christmases ago about where I think Santa Claus fits into the scheme of Christmas. St. Nicholas was a Christ follower and shining example of a generous gift giver.
“I don’t want to lie to my kids,” someone shared with me. “So what do I do about Santa Claus?” Santa Claus is an issue for many people. We do not want the secularized figure distracting from the celebration as the birth of Jesus. These are legitimate and important parenting concerns. I get the opportunity to address these questions once again as the parent of a two year old. My thinking has changed a little with the experience on having raised two girls now in their teens on a healthy dose of Santa Claus. But not in the way you are probably thinking.
Truth is, I love Santa Claus. I love legends. I love Odysseus, I love King Arthur, I love Joan of Arc, and I love Davy Crockett. Legends are beautiful tributes to historical figures, shrouding interesting men and women in mysterious, romantic tales of valor and courage. St. Nicholas is the same. And that is how I present him to my children.
We don’t present gifts as from Santa, though we do leave some stocking items as a mysterious unknown. For one thing, Dad wants credit for picking out these big, exciting presents. For another, how could Santa afford all those gifts? Families that can afford gifts take responsibility for buying gifts in our house. Who is St. Nick? Santa Claus is a very special delivery guy, delivering gifts for Jesus’ birthday. We give gifts to each other in Jesus’ honor. He is a really cool UPS or FedEx driver. He may even deliver in a boat here in South Florida!
As they get older I have explained to my kids that, though St. Nicholas volunteered hundreds of years ago to deliver gifts in Jesus’ name, the tradition continues to be carried on. Then I encourage them to become that gift giver themselves. When they are old enough to understand, they are old enough to follow the example of St. Nicholas and deliver surprise or secret gifts in the name of Jesus.
Okay, that is probably not a fair question. Christmas is Jesus’s birthday. He probably didn’t put too much stock in birthdays! But, our Lord celebrated the traditional Jewish feasts, and more importantly, fulfilled those symbolic feasts, most meaningfully the Passover. We commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus by celebrating Passover, leading to Resurrection Day. Jesus celebrated; he partied. We try to make Holy Week the really big party at our house. No, Christmas is not Jesus’ exact birthday. But we have freedom in Christ, as we are under grace, not the law, to celebrate as our conscience dictates and even as our culture offers.
I used to sort of panic and be dismayed at the push to secularize Christmas. Taking Christ out of Christmas made me feel a little militant. Now I laugh at the absurdity of it. Psalm 2 rings like Christmas bells in my ear. I imagine I hear the tinkle of Jesus’s laugh. God the Father chuckles. Talk about shaking like a bowl full of jelly! Our puny holiday in our tiny space of time that we created as a little gift to Jesus does not truly need me to spend time and energy in its defense. Jesus wants my heart, not my self-righteous indignation.
Don’t misunderstand me. I have a beautifully decorated tree, just saw Tenth Avenue North perform their Decade The Halls tour, and my yard is obviously festive. Clearly I celebrate Christmas and I do so in a way that I hope and pray brings honor to my Savior. I also think throwing out Santa Claus because a disrespectful culture has commercialized a faithful saint is missing the point. Please be consistent and refrain from St. Valentines Day, and St. Patrick’s Day, too, then. I don’t think chocolate and beer is what either of those guys had in mind either.
I hope you see this as a challenge to chew on an idea and think about whether we worry about some rather little things and miss the really big ones. Merry Christmas!
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