Thursday, December 20, 2007

Santa and Jesus?

I often wonder why there is such controversy in the Christian world over Santa. Why do some people hate a representation of childhood joy and the spirit of selflessness and giving? We have fantasy in other parts of life with our children – Disney Princesses come to mind, as well as trains or puppets that talk, or vegetables that dance and sing. I especially like the example of the VeggieTales (at least the Big Idea ones, before the buy-out). Is there a possibility of celebrating Christ’s Birth, a Holy and Beautiful day without having to exclude fantasy?

I like Santa. NOT more than Christ, Not as a replacement for the Real Reason. But rather I like him as a way of allowing children to have fun and joy while growing in a spirit of giving. I think a lot of this has to do with the way I was raised. We grew up with a LOT of joy around Christmas. My parents worked very hard to create a magic of childhood that I can only describe as amazing. I learned a lot from their attitude. While I do plan to make a few changes, especially in the Advent department, I hope to continue some of the magical tradition of santa. (Anyone looking for ideas should ask; my mother was truly amazing! I’m not sure I will admit how long I believed in santa…)

Maybe the secret lies in Advent itself. Are the kids spending their time looking through magazines for what they want, or are they cleaning out their toys to give to children in need? Are they reading only books about jolly elves, or are you reading Scripture that gives light to the anticipation of the Messiah?! Do they write multiple letters about what they want, or did you pick a tag from the giving tree and involve them in shopping for the other family??? I, for one, believe that these examples help keep even children focused on the real reason, and acting as Christ wants us to. He came into the world out of Unconditional Love; are we showing and helping our kids learn how to show self-less love?

One thing I did a couple of years ago with 2 nieces was set up the Nativity scene with them. My mom has a large “Italian garden-style” Fontanini Nativity. As we unwrapped each piece I made up stories about the other characters, telling tales about the pottery man, the woman at the well, the children. I recounted scripture about the centurion reading the decree that all should be taxed and the kings following a star, and asked them what they thought the shepherds were thinking when they went into the fields that night. It took a long time to unwrap the 50ish pieces and set them up, and the girls LOVED every minute! I plan to do something similar with our kids; it’s fun to deck the halls, but taking time to focus on the Nativity set-up could help remind everyone involved why you’re doing it.

I have no problem with people choosing not to celebrate with santa! If keeping him out of Christmas is what it takes for you to keep Christ in Christmas then by all means PLEASE do so! I respect that decision! I abhor the way the anti-Christian minority has replaced all meaning of Christmas with secular emptiness. All I’m saying is that including santa and allowing kids to be excited about the mystery and magic of the jolly old man does not automatically exclude the Joy of Christ’s Birth.

I posted before that growing up with the excitement of Santa may have helped prepare my heart for the anticipation and joy of a grown-up spiritual Advent. Knowing that this time of year was different than any other sets the stage for Christ to come in – at least for me. Yes, most people think I’m crazy. But before condemning santa as a pagan element that is only a representation of the commercialism of our society and the secularization of our Religious Christmas, consider that it might be possible to teach kids about Christmas using Santa.