Friday, December 4, 2009

"The Fun Part of Christmas"

I had been pastor only a short time when I made what could have been a fatal error. I blew the whistle on Santa Claus. Actually, I blew the whistle on the parents. It all happened very unintentionally during a Sunday morning message in the midst of Christmas season. Somewhere in the middle of an illustration, I made the passing comment that my wife and I never taught our kids to believe in Santa Claus. Gasps, looks of surprise and dismay quickly informed me that I had committed a major boo-boo. That's when I learned that most of the parents in our church regularly taught their children to look for Santa Claus. Not only did I let the cat out of the bag, I destroyed the "bag" altogether. Parents were faced with having to explain to children whether Santa was indeed a real person or not. I don't know if some parents ever forgave me, and I wisely chose not to ask.
Santa Claus was never a major issue in our family because, early in our marriage, my wife and I decided how we were going to teach our children. We did not go to war against Santa. I did not preach against him, and I did not teach him either. Whenever our children asked about Santa Claus, we gave them the same answer together:
"Santa Claus is the fun part of Christmas."
It occurred to us that children enjoy fantasy and fairy tales every time they turn on the TV to the Saturday morning cartoons. But when is the last time you ever heard a sermon against Bugs Bunny or Elmer Fudd? Or Daffy Duck? Or Mickey Mouse? We don't waste time preaching against those characters because they are such obvious fantasy that we expect our children to know they are make-believe.
Why not treat Santa Claus the same way? Yes, I know Santa Claus hearkens back to St. Nicholas, but kids these days do not know that. They associate Santa with Rudolph, Frosty and Snowman, and Tim Allen ("The Santa Clause" movie). Bugs, Daffy and the Road Runner are for fun, and so is Santa Claus. Don't let him out of that box. Don't deprive the children of having fun with all the make-believe fun things of the season, but do not allow the fun things to take on a greater reality either. Let the kids know "We want you to have fun during Christmas, and Santa is for fun."
Santa is for fun, but the Bible is the truth - and we never confused truth with fantasy. We never taught our children that Santa was real. Jesus is real. Santa is for fun, but the Bible is real. The gospel is real. Our children could enjoy all the cartoons and holiday specials. We could decorate the house and give all the presents. We could laugh at all the Santa Claus movies. But when we opened the Bible or went to church, we left the fantasy behind. As our children grew, the fantasy subsided and reality replaced the make believe.
We never complained to our children about Santa Claus, and we never lied to them about him either. They believed us when we said, "Santa is the fun part of Christmas." And when we taught them the gospel, they believed us then as well. I'm glad we didn't have to apologize for anything we taught them. I'm glad they learned the difference between having fun and having the truth.

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