Christian parents sometimes ask me whether they should celebrate Santa Claus. I tell them about my own experience and about Romans 14.
My wife and I enjoyed celebrating Santa Claus, and our boys were able to separate this tradition from Jesus. Santa brought gifts to our house on Christmas morning, but not the biggies. The big gifts, such as bikes and snowboards, came from us, but Santa filled the stockings with fun smaller gifts, and always Star Wars action figures, which my college and high school sons still receive.
We also taught our boys the true story of Saint Nicholas. He lived long ago in Myra, Turkey, in the 200s, was the pastor of a church and loved Jesus so much that he secretly gave presents to boys and girls. We follow in his tradition by giving gifts to celebrate God’s best gift of all – Jesus.
When the kids were little, we also made a Happy Birthday baby Jesus cake, sang Happy Birthday to Jesus and blew out the candles. Then I would narrate the Christmas story from the Bible while the boys acted out the story with the figures in our wooden manger set. Sometimes Barney and other superheroes would sneak into the scene.
As soon as our boys expressed doubt concerning Santa, we would say, “What do you think?” My wife insisted that we do nothing that could be construed as lying. We strategically left clues. For our oldest, we cut out a jagged pattern in the note Santa left on Christmas morning and then purposefully left out the notepad from which the note was cut. Our son matched the two parts of the puzzle.
I think Santa Claus can be a healthy part of a Christ-centered Christmas, when handled thoughtfully, but I also respect those who choose not to follow this tradition. Romans 14 is a Biblical teaching about gray areas of our faith practice. Paul says to not judge people about these “disputable matters.”
Mike Moses is lead pastor of Lake Forest Church in Huntersville. Details: www.lakeforest.org.