Monday, December 8, 2014

My Kids Will Believe in St. Nick (but They Won't Believe in Santa)

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In the fourth century, in the far away land of Asia Minor, lived a young man named Nicholas. He was raised a Christian, ordained a priest, and became a bishop. He often gave gifts to poor children and used his wealth to help the poor, sick, and needy. We know him as St. Nicholas.

Today, in the far away land of the North Pole, lives a fat, white-bearded man named Nicholas. He spends most of the year watching children to see if they are good or bad. He always gives Christmas gifts to the good boys and girls of the world. We know him as Santa.

What is the difference between Santa and St. Nicholas? Besides the obvious difference (that St. Nicholas actually existed, but Santa is just a story), their tales are fundamentally different. St. Nicholas gave gifts to those who needed them; Santa gives gifts to those who earned them. St. Nicholas exhibited grace; Santa exhibits condemnation. St. Nicholas promoted righteousness by grace; Santa promotes righteousness by works.

We know from Scripture that we can never be “good enough” for God. Isaiah 64:6 says that “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” Ephesians 2:8-9 says we have been saved by “the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast.” We can teach our children that we will never earn gifts from God, but if we teach them that they can earn gifts from Santa, we will, in effect, be negating what we taught on gifts from God. By a child’s understanding, there will be no difference; if they are good enough to earn Santa’s gifts, they are good enough to earn God’s.

I don’t want my kids to think they can be good enough. I want them to see the story of the real St. Nicholas, minister and bishop, filled with zeal for the Gospel. I want them to see the example of a man who did works not out of a desire to earn something, but out of gratitude for his salvation. I want them to see that St. Nicholas gave gifts not to people who deserved them, but to people who need them, in the same way that God gave us His Gift, not to those who deserved His grace, but to those who needed it.

That Gift God gave us is Christ, the Christ that “was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell, but the third day He rose again from the dead! He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty!” (Apostles' Creed) That is the gift I want my children to hear about. I can’t teach my children about that gift by teaching them about Santa, but I can teach them about that gift by teaching them of Nicholas of Myra. My children will believe in St. Nicholas. But they won’t believe in Santa.

I don’t mean to condemn those parents who chose to teach their children about Santa Claus. Before you make a decision either way, though, ask yourself a few things.

What are you trying to teach them by telling them about Santa?

Is the story of Santa supporting or taking away from the story of Jesus’s birth, death, and resurrection?

If you teach your child that Santa and Jesus are both real, but later tell them Santa isn’t real, what conclusion might they reach about Jesus?

Can you use the story of Santa to make sure they hear the Gospel?

Intentional parenting is good parenting. Are you intentional in your Christmas parenting?

Photo Credit:
When Santa Punched a Heretic in the Face: 13 Memes on St. Nicholas

*All Scripture passages referenced are from the ESV Bible*

Edit: It was brought to my attention that the above statement on "intentional parenting" is a bit unclear. I did not intend to say that parents who teach their children about Santa are being unintentional parents. My intent was to say that parents need to be intentional about making the choice. Parents who choose to teach their children to believe in Santa are intentional. Parents who chose to teach their children not to believe in Santa are intentional. Unintentional parenting happens when parents just let one or the other happen. I do not in any way mean to condemn either decision, merely to provoke thoughts on the topic.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure to check out How to Do Santa Well (if You're Going to Do the Santa Thing)!

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