Before I get into this post, let me add a quick disclaimer and explanation. We don’t do Santa Claus in our family and never have. This is most likely due to the fact that neither John nor I grew up with the tradition and so don’t see a need to add it now. But it is also because in general we just don’t do make-believe characters on holidays or special occasions as we’d prefer to concentrate on the reality behind the celebration. The one exception was a brief stint with the tooth fairy. She met an untimely death when she came into contact with five year old Elise, who though she loved to imagine things, liked to have the line between reality and pretend very clearly drawn. So, just so you know the background here, though my kids hear things about Santa Claus, we do not really talk about him much in our house. But I don’t want this post to be condemning in any way to those of you that do. My desire in this post is just to encourage you to think about it in perhaps a different way than you have before, because until this conversation, I had not thought of it in this way.
It was Christmas Eve. The kids were anxiously counting down until Christmas morning, eagerly anticipating opening the many gifts under our tree. Will and I were in the kitchen where I was helping him make chocolate fudge as his Christmas present for everyone. As we waited for the fudge to reach the correct temperature, Will mentioned something he had heard from one of his friends. It was something along the lines of “you had better be good or you won’t get good presents for Christmas.” I don’t think we have ever said this to our kids, but it is found in much of what we hear and read about Christmas. “You’d better watch out, you better not cry, you better not shout . . .” And it suddenly hit me that this idea that permeates much of our Christmas thought and teaching may be robbing us of an important truth.
I wasn’t sure what Will thought about this idea, so I asked him a few questions. “Will, you know that isn’t true, right?” He assured me that yes, he knew it wasn’t true. “Why do we celebrate Christmas, Will?” “We celebrate because Jesus was born,” he answered. “Yes,” I agreed, “Jesus was God’s gift to us. And did Jesus come because we had been good?” Will looked at me with realization dawning on his face and answered, “No, he came to die for our sins. We were being very bad!”
If what we are truly celebrating at Christmas is God’s gift of his son to us, then our gifts should mirror that. We give gifts at Christmas to those we love because we love them, not because they have in any way earned them. I know that we want to teach our children that good behavior brings good rewards and bad behavior results in bad consequences, but this isn’t the message of Christmas. Christmas is about the fact that even though we didn’t deserve it, God sent his son to us and made his life available to all. And I want to make sure my kids find that truth quite obvious in our Christmas celebrations.