Rethinking the Santa Lie

img_4030Santa is real. Or at least if you go back far enough in history there was a real man on whom the Santa story is based. Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop in Turkey, a staunch defender of the divinity of Jesus, and writer of the Nicene Creed recited by churches to this day–who enjoyed giving gifts to children. But add enough years and the marketing scheme of Coca Cola Corporation, and the man of faith is transformed into Santa Claus–jolly, magical giver of gifts to children everywhere. Weatherfolk across our nation seem to delight in “tracking” Santa each Christmas Eve, thus lending a certain credibility for innocent, trusting children.

But why do otherwise reasonable adults feel compelled to perpetuate the Santa lie?

For some, I’m sure they just never gave the issue much thought. They were raised believing in Santa (as I was), and they figure that’s the thing to do for their kids. Parenting comes with so many issues and decisions. Why think about Santa when you can go along with everyone else? It may be easy to not think about it.

Maybe some people would say they don’t want to deny their kids the magic and wonder of Christmas that Santa embodies.  Everyone loves to see that sparkle of wonder in a child’s eyes. After all, Santa has flying reindeer, elves who make toys, and a love for cookies and milk. What’s not to love?

But what about that other Christmas story?

The one with angels appearing to people. The one with ancient prophecies fulfilled. The one where the infinite God of glory becomes a little baby in a third-world nation. The one where Love comes down, bringing hope and peace to this tattered world. The one where we’re all on the Naughty list, but we get the best gift anyway.

Is there no wonder there? Nothing worthy of sparkling eyes and anticipation?

Maybe some tell the Santa story not because the Jesus story lacks in wonder and amazement, but because we have lost some of the wonder and amazement of it. Or we think it’s not enough. And Santa’s an easier sell anyway as he plays into our consumerist society. Maybe we sell our kids short.

But, if you’re going with the Santa Christmas story, here are some things to consider. How many lies are you comfortable with telling in order to prop up the Santa lie? And is the lie worth it as you try to teach your kids to tell the truth? How do you explain Santa’s apparent prejudice against poorer people–and how jolly is that?

I don’t have a problem with the story of Santa Claus; it’s a nice piece of fiction. But when the fiction is told as truth, and people go to great lengths to maintain the lie, something’s not right.

If you need help finding the wonder of the other Christmas story, go outside on a starry night and marvel at the stars. Realize how puny we are. Then think about the God who is greater than the universe entering in to our world, miniaturizing himself into an infant, going to such incredible lengths out of His amazing love for us. He came on a rescue mission that Bethlehem night. He came to give us life in the midst of our dying. (Not exactly a new tv, but still.)

Wonder. And be amazed.


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