This is the time of the year for Christians to bemoan the secularized Christmas that dominates our national landscape. I certainly would hate to disappoint. After all, Christmas is the starting point for the most miraculous series of events that the world has ever witnessed. God taking the form of man is a rather big deal. The path to the crucifixion was filled with one miracle after another. The crucifixion itself was the greatest testimony to God’s love for a race that didn’t deserve one ounce of it. The resurrection was the culmination of His plan for the salvation of those who would respond to that love.
So, certainly, I’m perturbed by any secularization of the Christmas experience. But it’s not the atheists that perturb me. They are few and foolish. Instead, it’s those who want to capture some vague concept of the “Christmas spirit” and trivialize the divine event.
It all starts with Santa Claus. Now, here’s where I may lose some friends. What you now suspect is true. I’m coming out of the closet. Yes, I am a Santa Claus Denier, which, in the eyes of the world, might even be worse than a Climate Change Denier.
First of all, let me say I have mellowed somewhat over the years regarding the guy in the red suit. There is the history of St. Nicholas, thereby providing a basis for the man in a Christian context. The problem, though, is that I’ve rarely seen that context presented. He’s really more of a substitute for Jesus.
We never raised our children to believe that Santa Claus was real. The years have shown that our approach didn’t create irreversible trauma. I think we called him a “clown” or something like that [memory dims]. Our basic concern was that we wanted our children to trust us. If we told them an outright lie about the reality of this being, would they then later reject our belief in God, not knowing whether we could be trusted to tell the truth?
For me, to tell a child that Santa really exists is a lie. It’s not just a fantasy thing. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is fantasy, and children can understand that. If they are trained to believe Santa is real, then discover he isn’t, have we planted seeds that will sprout spiritual problems?
It is true that many people believed in Santa as children, came to the realization he was fiction, didn’t hate their parents for misleading them, and still became Christians. I know that. But I have to answer to God for how I led my children. My conscience wouldn’t allow telling them this untruth.
I’m not a curmudgeon. I love the decorations, the lights, the music [at least all that isn’t Santa-related, etc.]. I feel particularly enthused by the coming of Christmas each year. I want it to be for the real reason, though.
Go to the Hallmark Channel in the remaining days before Christmas and watch the constant Christmas movies being presented there. Then calculate the percentage of those that have a message that focuses centrally, not tangentially, on the birth of Christ. I watched a series of these during Thanksgiving week. The “Christmas spirit” was central to every plot [such as they were], but the definition of that spirit varied. How do you know you’ve got the Christmas spirit? Well, family got together . . . somebody got the surprise present . . . you name it, they offered it. I believe in family. I like presents. Yet neither are the essence of Christmas.
As I said, I’m not particularly worried about someone trying to bash Christmas as a fiction; I’m far more concerned about those who love Christmas and then re-create it in their own image. That’s far more damaging to the reality of the celebration because it changes it into something it is not.
I celebrate Christmas. The only reason I have any hope in this life and the next is that Jesus Christ humbled Himself to become like us, suffered for us, and then gave us the promise of a truly blessed life through relationship with Him.