Warning parents: if your six-year-old reads this blog, please have them skip this entry because we will be discussing the "S" word here (Santa).
"So, do you all have Sanata at your house?" This has been the million dollar question of late, due to the season. And despite a nagging feeling that I am depriving my kids of a rite of childhood, Diane and I have chosen to tell our children that Santa Claus (as perpetuated by the media and culture) is not real, that he will not be coming down our non-existent chimney, and that he will not be bringing them toys this Christmas (we don't talk about it quite that bluntly). We do tell them about Saint Nicholas and the things he did for the poor because of his love for Jesus.
The reason for our choice is that we are really trying to be intentional about making Christ the focus of our Christmas preparation and celebration, and Santa sort of gums up the works because he becomes the star of the show on Christmas morning. It's hard enough to stem the cultural tide of consuming and making Christmas so dependent upon presents; adding an expectation that even more gifts will be coming from Santa just seems counterproductive.
And yet I can't help but feel like the Grinch when I tell friends that, no, we don't have gifts from Santa for our kids. It's not that I catch any overt grief, but all of my reasons sound so self-righteous, especially when I say them to fellow Christians. "We really want to be intentional about Christ being the focus of Christmas." (Oh, so my Christian friends who do the whole Santa thing aren't focused on Jesus at Christmas?) "We really want to fight against consumerism." (Oh, so my Christian friends who do the whole Santa thing are just wasteful spendthrifts?) And the subtle implication of our Western culture is that if you don't get your kids amazing gifts, you might not love them as much as other parents love their kids.
Yes, there is something beautiful about childlike faith, about cookies and milk being left for Santa to nibble. There is something very sweet about the openness to wonder and miracles that goes right along with the Santa idea. But I want my children's faith to focus on the wonder of Emmanuel, God with us. On the miracle that the Lord loves them so much that He would come near, as a baby, a child just like them, in order that they might know God in the deepest parts of their heart and soul. I know that there is only so deep that this faith and understanding can go at a young age (heck, at any age). But what better time of year, a time of lights and giving and joy, to sow seeds of faith in Christ and to really embrace the adage that Jesus is the reason for the season. Perhaps there is a convincing argument that Santa doesn't hinder that at all, and that he even enhances it by opening our hearts to simple faith. I can hear that, but I can't get past the thought that faith in something that isn't true is perhaps faith that is misplaced. Growing comfortable in our decision make take some time.
I think the secret is safe with our kids – I told the girls that some of their friends will still believe in Santa and that they should not tell them otherwise, and Psalter with all seriousness said, "I will never, ever tell them."