Monday, December 30, 2013


Apart from the forty-eleven questions I get from our resident four-year-old on a daily basis, I've also been asked one specific question by the adults in my life lately:  

"So, do y'all 'do Santa' with Ethan?"

While, "Mommy, what does 'sarcastic' mean?" can be quite tricky to explain, my answer to the Santa question can be just as difficult. I say this because it can instantly seem judgmental or snarky, neither of which I want to convey.  It has nothing to do with the "war on Christmas", or even that "Santa" and "Satan" share the same letters.  (I'd love to know who sat around and figured that one out...)

We've had a lot of conversations about this over the past few weeks, so I know that many of you are thinking through these same thoughts.  For Jeramie and me, the decision to no longer "do Santa" became simple as we were driving back to Raleigh on Christmas Eve and realized this:

The "message of Santa" that is taught from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve is in conflict with the message of the Gospel that we strive to teach Ethan all year long.

Santa says: you deserve gifts because you're a good boy.  The Gospel says: you are more sinful than you ever imagined, but more loved than you ever dared hope.

In response to the ultimate gift of Jesus, we spend all year-long thanking God and giving Him credit and glory for what He has done.  Then December rolls around and, by "doing Santa", we have no one to thank but ourselves, since we've theoretically done all the work of "being good" to "earn" all these awesome gifts.

(Side note: I've yet to read a blog post about the kid who got nothing from Santa because he/she couldn't maintain good behavior throughout the month of December.  What parent would do that?! And if you would, why even perpetuate the idea of Santa in the first place?)

Now, that's not to say that Ethan will never take a photo with the jolly ol' guy or that he won't adorn Santa-related pajamas at some point during the Christmas season.  It also doesn't mean that we'll shoot you nasty looks when you mention the "S-word", and it definitely doesn't mean that we'll judge you for including him in your Christmas celebrations. It simply means that, for our family, we'll "do" Santa about as much as we "do" Mickey Mouse.  He's a friendly character that shows up in books, movies, and TV shows.  Just as we can travel to Disney to visit The Mouse, we can make our way over to the local mall to see Mr. Claus.  They can hug and smile and and high-five, but Ethan will know that Santa won't fulfill a list of Christmas wishes any more than Mickey will actually invite him into the Clubhouse.

Our goal is for Ethan to know that we give and receive gifts because we love one another, and that love is out of response to the love God showed us through Jesus' birth - all of which require grateful and humble hearts.

But what about the magic that Santa brings?

I read an intriguing blog post a few weeks ago that made the point that, for Christians, Christmas is already more than magical.  I don't care for the "Santa is a lie" rant that takes up the first few paragraphs of the post, but the rest is really, really good.  If you're seriously contemplating some of this stuff, I would encourage you to read it

My parents "did Santa" when I was little and I have fond memories of what that was like.  I've also realized that if Santa were to be removed from those memories, they would be just as sweet.  The nostalgia I feel is related to the traditions my family shared - visiting the world's largest Christmas tree, singing Christmas carols in the car, spending Christmas afternoon at my grandma's house.  While Santa did "show up" at our house on Christmas Eve, he was not the main event, and all of those memories exist just as fondly without his presence.

When Ethan is thirty-one years old and reflecting on his childhood, I want him to have warm memories of being a kid, tangled with love and kindness.  I hope he'll be able to look back and say, "I remember when..." and smile about those times.  Most of all, I want him to understand that Jesus Christ - our Savior, our Rescuer, our Redeemer - is the center of it all and that in Him we live, and move, and have our being.  My hope is not to raise a child who enjoys a few years of Santa's magic, but to raise an adult who grasps the fullness of our Savior's love.

That, my friends, will be quite magical indeed.


Jenn said...

This is so well-said, Joye. We are of the same mind… we don't demonize Santa, but we don't "do" Santa, either and for the same reasons you gave. We have been gently derided for taking the "magic" out of Christmas, but if Jesus coming to earth to save us isn't magic and amazing, then I don't know what is!

Sherry said...

I love the way you wrote this piece, Joye! You have a real "gift." I also love your perspective. :-)

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