On the Question of Santa Claus

I’ve already made it known a couple of times in the past few weeks that I love Christmas, especially in this post. Part of enjoying the holiday season and Christmas is the lead up and anticipation of the day, for when the day comes, you kind of begin to realise the season is coming to an end.

But I love the lights, the trees, the smells, the goodies, the giving and receiving of gifts, the cold, the snow (if it comes), the Christmas movies, the time with friends and family, the delicious and usually huge meals, and so much more. So, yeah, I love Christmas!

And, of course, I very much recognise that this is the day the church celebrates the birth of Christ (though it could be that he was born another date). I don’t see it as a tag on to Christmas. But I also don’t mind if people celebrate Christmas time for all the other great things I mentioned above, things that I also believe bring joy to the heart of God. Nor do I mind since I am convinced that the Immanuel heart of God is a reality every day.

Still, one thing that many Christians can struggle with is the idea of Santa Claus and whether or not we should tell our children about him, as if he is a real person. It is interesting to note that the story of Santa Claus is based upon the real historical figure within the church known as Saint Nicholas. But, of course, most are not aware of the man, Nikolaos the Wonderworker, who was bishop of Myra.

Still, what of the modern day Santa Claus? Isn’t he and the whole Christmas gig too heavily wrapped up in American-western consumerism? Should Christians celebrate those aspects of Christmas and tell their kids about Santa Claus? Isn’t this lying?

Well, I would start off by agreeing that the tidal wave of consumerism that has hit America in the past few decades has gone way overboard. In many respects, some of this has been a meeting of gluttony and greed.

But I personally do not have a problem with celebrating Christmas nor of telling the story of Santa Claus, even if one doesn’t add in some of the accounts about Saint Nikolaos the Wonderworker (though I can hear my evangelical friends casting dark shadows on some of the stories of Saint Nikolaos as well).

Why does it not bother me?

Simply stated, I believe God takes great delight in the amazing opportunity of drawing children into magical tales of ‘otherworldy’ accounts. Those stories that begin with, ‘Once upon a time….,’ are the stories that capture our hearts. And, so, there truly is something magical about the whole setting of Santa Claus and Christmas. Or there should be. If you don’t think so, watch The Polar Express. Absolutely fantastically magical!

This is why you had someone like C.S. Lewis writing the series, The Chronicles of Narnia (and other stories). None of it is real. But in these we find remarkably enchanting tales that speak of something greater, that somehow give us a taste of another world. Now, people might be quick to argue that the spiritual overtones are quite obvious in The Chronicles of Narnia. But, with Santa Claus, we have crossed the line.

Yet, for the average person who has never read the Bible, I don’t think things are so obvious in some of Lewis’ works. Of course, many are finding out Lewis’ perspective due to the release of the movies over the past few years. But here is a series that has captivated the hearts of millions, teaching them something of the eternal (and magical) drama going on.

So, just as in The Chronicles of Narnia, all magical tales can carry a sense of divine undertones, drawing people in to the greater redemptive story of God. This is true in works like The Lord of the Rings and even in non-Christians fantasy fiction and science fiction books (though I will refrain from naming those books so that I avoid a possible stoning). God is quite capable of such even if an author had no such intentions.

You see, I find no harm in letting children be drawn in to the marvellous stories available to us. Let it be The Lion King or Aladdin or whatever other story (in book or film form). But they captivate kids (and us). And I think God meant it that way. In that amazement, I believe children are getting a touch of their creative Father and the age to come that will be beyond anything we could think or imagine. John’s Revelation was simply imagery to explain what is to come. Not the complete picture.

And so, with good ol’ Saint Nick, or Santa Claus, here is a character who stands as a magical draw into something more than we see here in this world, something special and otherworldly. We don’t have to be afraid of such. Nor do we have to preach the gospel in some cheesy way every time we talk of Santa Claus. Rather we allow children, and even ourselves, to be captured by such a character and story, revelling in the fact that this calls us into the greatest story and character of all time.

So, what do I think of the story of Santa Claus? I think it beautiful, magical, amazing. And I desire my children to see this as well.

If you would like to read other articles around such Christmas topics, check out Brian LePort’s and Michael Patton’s.

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It’s That Time of Year Again…

I must admit it. I love the Christmas season. I love the lights, the trees, the smells, the goodies, the giving and receiving of gifts, the cold, the snow (if it comes), the Christmas movies, the time with friends and family, the delicious and usually huge meals, and so much more.

Yeah, I know. I sound a bit worldly, heh? No mention of Christ and his coming into the world. Well, I absolutely adore him and I am filled with gratefulness for such an act. But I believe I understand the importance of Christ’s incarnation on a regular basis.

But, with the holidays and Christmas time, well, that comes around one time a year for me.

Now, I know, it’s just the end of October now. There is still this ever-discussed holiday we call Halloween (I share my thoughts here), as well as the well-known American holiday of Thanksgiving. So why the rush?

Well, there is no rush. I just love the start of November as the days get colder, the leaves begin to change orange, yellow and brown, the wearing of warm clothes, and all things as we lead up to those beautiful holidays.

Actually, maybe I am in a rush. I listened to Christmas music for the first time this morning – ON 25 OCTOBER!! And now, writing this article, I am reminded to put on the music again.

Ok, maybe I am pathetic.

But really….I do love this time of year.

I think my parents made it quite magical growing up. We always had lots of lights outside and a big, beautiful tree with coloured lights. Yes, I prefer coloured lights over white lights. My wife prefers the white lights, so we make compromises.

At times, during the days leading up to Christmas, we would have friends over to make gingerbread houses. That always proved interesting! Graham Cracker houses, candy, gum drops, candy canes, white icing for snow and coconut for snow. My mom definitely makes the best snowman cookies in the world – little Hershey kisses for hats, mini-M&M’s for eyes and buttons, and the scarf made with coloured icing. Oh goodness, my mouth is beginning to water. I would enter these things in any holiday cookie contest!

White Christmas’ were really not an option growing up in Memphis. It would get down, at times, in the low 30’s or high 20’s F (or around just below zero C). But our colder days are in late January and February. So I cannot even remember if it ever snowed on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. But, nonetheless, the cold weather lets you know what time of year it is.

I love watching Christmas movies like Home Alone, Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story (thanks to TBS running it 24 hours straight), etc. But my favourite two movies are A Christmas Carol (probably the Muppet version the best) and the newer movie, Polar Express.

When it is time to sit down at the table for the big feast, ohhhhhhh yes! The turkey, honey-baked ham, hash brown cheese potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, dressing, gravy, deviled eggs, rolls, and a few other things scattered across the already full table. And then, whatever dessert mom had cooked up (and maybe a snowman cookie or two as well). Again, my mouth begins to water.

This Christmas, I will be able to visit my family in America. The past 2 years, we have celebrated with our British family in northern England. So this will be our first Christmas in the US since 2007, and my son’s first in America. Therefore, I look forward to it with much anticipation.

So, it’s not quite that time of year again, not quite the holiday season just yet. But it’s that time leading up to it, which is just as unique and amazing for me, as I am able to experience the longing and anticipation for that wonderful time of year. Hence, maybe it is that time of year again….. And I embrace it with all its wonder and anticipation.