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I always had one special gift that I wanted. I’d gone through the Sears & Roebuck catalog many times and decided on the ideal gift for me. I told Santa my choice, climbed down off his lap, and happily joined my parents, knowing I would get what I asked for on Christmas Day.
We decorated the tree a few days before Christmas, and on Christmas Eve, we would leave a glass of milk or eggnog and some cookies or fruitcake out for Santa Claus.
I always wondered how he got down our chimney.
But I was a believer!
Each Christmas morning, the gifts had magically appeared under the tree, the stockings were full to overflowing, and best of all, Santa left a note. He always thanked us for the treat and said something about how nice it was on such a busy night. (I didn't ever notice his printing was just like my dad's.)
My parents never lied to us. They never told us that Santa Claus was real. But they allowed us to believe in him—to enjoy the fantasy. We did! We even imagined we heard bells from the sleigh. We tried to stay awake to see the reindeer.
I was in third grade when I learned the truth. Several kids in my class said they didn’t believe in Santa Claus, that their parents bought the gifts, and that they knew. I defended Santa with all my might, and I cried all the way home. When I arrived, I asked my mother if Santa Claus was real. She answered, “Santa is the spirit of Christmas,” and then, I knew, too.
I had believed in something that didn’t exist.
Years later, we had children. Our eldest is a girl, and she was the least gullible child I have ever known. She saw Santas here and there, and she couldn’t understand why adults would dress up in such ridiculous costumes! Who did they think they were fooling? Not her! We didn’t do the Santa thing at our house, anyhow, but she would never have believed. Never.
So, where does Santa Claus belong? I’ll let you decide for yourself how you handle Santa in your family.
As I said before, we didn’t include Santa in our Christmas celebrations, and here are two reasons why:
1. Christmas is about Jesus’ birth. The incarnation of Christ is crucial to God’s wonderful plan of salvation.
- Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:6-7).
- For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17).
2. Jesus Christ should be central to every Christian family’s Christmas celebration. I believe families can choose how they celebrate Christmas. There’s no commandment that says, “thou shalt have a Christmas tree.” Let me offer some ideas for putting Jesus—and not Santa—front and center.
- Display a manger scene. There are several that are very nice that children can play with. How wonderful to watch children learn about the birth of Jesus through their play!
- Read about the birth of Jesus. Again, there are many fine, biblical Christmas books for children. Read about His birth if you’re an adult, too. You can find the story in Matthew 2 and Luke 2. Even if you are very familiar with the Christmas story, there’s always something new and fresh waiting for you. You could, for example, compare Mary’s expression of praise (called the Magnificat. You can read my post about it, here.) with Hannah’s praise in 1 Samuel 2. You can look into all of the characters: Mary, Joseph, the angel Gabriel, the shepherds, Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna. This is rich! Our family always read the Christmas story from the Bible before opening any gifts and before looking into the stockings.
- Talk about Jesus as you decorate and plan. If you put up a tree, talk about Jesus’ death on the cross (tree) and how He rose from the grave and lives today. You can talk about colors—red for Jesus’ blood shed for us, blue for heaven, gold for Jesus is King, etc.
- Use Christmas as a time to do something for others, so that it’s not just about me and what I get. You can send a special offering to help needy people, collect toys for the less fortunate, take a meal to a family that’s out of work, sing carols at a retired persons' residence, or help in an orphanage or mission. Involve your children. The possibilities are endless!
- In your home, enjoy Christmas music about Jesus. The old Christmas carols are wonderful for teaching children about Jesus. When you have Christmas music on around the house, it feels like Christmas.
- Form traditions. I confess I’m not much of a tradition person, but there are things every family likes to incorporate in their Christmas celebration. Find activities you enjoy year after year. Do you like to make shaped cookies? Do you enjoy driving through the city and looking at the lights? Do you make spiced apple cider on Christmas Eve? Make family traditions that you'll look forward to at Christmastime, year after year.
And Santa? It’s not about Santa; it’s about Jesus.
Jesus knows your name. And the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out (John 10:3b) . . . And He isn’t wired to the Christmas fairy lady.
Jesus exists. He is eternal. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever (Hebrews 13:8).
We can believe! Jesus said, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).