Thursday, December 15, 2011

I'm Glad Jesus Isn't Santa

As parents, my husband and I decided when we had children that we were not going to teach our kids to believe in Santa Clause. It's not that we're against Santa... or people whose holiday does include him, but we just decided that was not a tradition we were going to follow in our home - for several reasons.

The main one was this: We were teaching our kids about Jesus, a supernatural being who is omicient (all-knowing), omnipresent (all places), and sees your heart. We didn't want to teach our kids about a fictional character with similar attributes (Santa)only to one day have to say. "just kidding, he isn't real"... but maintain that Jesus IS real. We thought that would be confusing, and we didn't want our kids to know us as parents who mislead them. We also wanted to keep the focus of Christmas on Jesus (the Savior who came to redeem the world) rather than on commercialism, getting stuff, and thinking of self. It was as simple as that. No big deal. Unlike some other people with strong religiious convictions, we don't bash Santa or call him evil. We just simply tell our kids that he is a fun, make-believe character like Mickey Mouse. A fictional character that represents the holiday, but is not real. My kids get it, and they are not the least bit deprived because of the lack of "magic" in our home. They know that their gifts come from people who love them, and they are greatful.

The other day I was riding in my car listening to Christmas music on the radio, and I heard "Santa Clause is Coming to Town". You know, the one about making a list and checking it twice - finding out who's naughty or nice. As those lyrics began to sink in, I found myself a little dismayed. Minutes later, I was at Barnes & Noble and saw a popular new book/toy called the "Elf on the Shelf". The stuffed elf acts as Santa's spy and sits in various locations in your home watching your kid's behavior, and then reports back to Santa so he'll know who to put on the 'naughty list' or the 'nice list'.

Then it struck me. I didn't like the song, and I didn't like the elf on the shelf, and I finally realized why. Santa opperates on a system that I (as a Christian) can't relate to. It's a "works-based" system, and it's foreign to me as a Jesus-follower. My entire faith is built around the idea of grace. Your works don't save you. Jesus doesn't weigh your good and your bad and decide what reward/punishment you get based on your behavior or your performance. He gives on a system of grace - we mess up all the time, don't earn or deserve any favor, but we get it anyway, because He loves us unconditonaly. That's the definition of grace - getting something you don't deserve. Not because of anything we have done, but because of the never-ending love and generosity of the Gift-Giver. That's the foundation of my faith. That is what I teach my children. And that is the culture in which I'm used to existing. That's why the whole Santa thing strikes me as "off". The works-based system of getting gifts because you behaved good enough, or getting overlooked because you didn't meet the mark goes against everything my faith represents, my Bible teaches, and my Savior proclaims. It's contrary to everything I teach my kids about Jesus. And quite honestly, I think it's even a little cruel. Can't we just teach our kids to be obedient and respectful without threatening to take away their Christmas? Shouldn't we expect good behavior from them simply because it's what we value as a family, and it's necessary for success in the world? And shouldn't we bestow gifts on them at Christmas simply because we love them and we're thankful for God's blessings?

I'm glad Jesus isn't Santa. I'm thankful that my Savior doesn't weigh my good and bad deeds and gift me accordingly. I'd have a lot of scarce Christmases. I'm so thankful for the unconditional grace of my Savior, that gifts me with forgiveness of my sins and eternal life - not because I earned it, but because of His endless love. Yep, I'm sure glad Jesus isn't Santa. Merry Christmas!