I posted this almost two years ago, but having just read a few commentaries on "lying" to your children about Santa, I thought it might be good to address the issue again. Patrick Madrid plans to have a discussion about it this afternoon on his "Right Here, Right Now" show starting at 4:00 PM ET (you can listen live here) and Matthew Warner over at The Radical Life is talking about it, too.
So, here's my two cents, for what it's worth:
Santa is a great way to teach about unbridled generosity and a way to teach about the unmerited generosity of God in sending Jesus to die for our sins. A four-year-old cannot wrap their brains around that concept, but older children can. That's why as our kids aged, we "played Santa" to others. Gradually, we moved toward the idea that Santa represents the spirit of giving of ourselves as Jesus gave his entire self to us.
Both of my kids managed to escape the idea that God was made up. I think we were able to help them understand that playing Santa is like being in a play: His character represents something much more profound that the sum total of his lines and stage actions. So, don't be afraid of Santa. He's just here to represent. It's our job, as parents to unpack that meaning for our kids.
So, with that in mind, cast your mind back a couple of years and read on.
The New Fruit of the Tree of Life? Not any more than it was the first time.
So, I have been thinking about this since I first saw Best Buy's 2011 Christmas Ad. The ad can't be found anywhere on the web at this point, and that is probably because many people consider it offensive. If you thought it was just cute, I'd ask you to reconsider.
In the commercial, a mother is standing at Best Buy talking to a clerk about buying the latest Apple gadgets at low prices. The clerk remarks, jokingly, "Yeah, Santa better watch his back this year." The mother, with a steely and greedy look in her eye, replies, "Yep."
In the next scene, Santa is arriving to leave presents on Christmas Eve and Mom is waiting for him, to gloat over how much she bought and how she beat him to the punch AND got better gifts for her family that he did. Santa appears bemused and startled at her apparent lack of respect for the gifts he had in mind for her family.
If I was going to write a modern retelling of the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden, I could not have done it better.
Just as he had in the Garden of Eden, God gives us all we need. Not always what we want, but everything that we need. Santa's gifts at Christmas are (and always have been) a metaphor for God's grace. But we, as our common mother, Eve, always seem to want more. We want to be in control. The mother in this ad is a perfect metaphor for Eve. She takes control of the gift situation from Santa, much like Eve wished to be "like God" when she took the apple (well, it was not really an apple, but that's the traditional symbol). It's really no coincidence (I don't think) that the products that the mother purchases from Best Buy are Apple products.
Wow. Just really. Wow. Do you think they realize the parallel?
Psychologically, Christmas is the most dangerous time of year. It is used as an opportunity to make you feel like less than you are because you don't have what everyone else has. It is a time that many people become control freaks (raising my hand, here) in their households trying to make a perfect Christmas, only to find that NOTHING in this world is perfect. People charge around the city trying to fill their broken hearts with things that will break or wear out. It is also the time of year when there are the most suicides because people feel that they can't keep up and they can't do anything to change their own situation. Coincidence?
There is no coincidence that at the exact time that we prepare to celebrate the coming of Jesus to our broken and weary world, Satan attacks us at our most vulnerable and oldest wound: Pride.
I have been having a lot of trouble letting go of the dreams of a perfect Christmas. Who doesn't want the "Perfect Christmas"? But what IS the perfect Christmas? Is it the beautifully decorated home, roaring fire, the gifts that are exactly right and the best food you've ever eaten?
It is the perfectly prepared heart. It is a heart prepared to receive the gifts that God provides, often without our participation. In fact, to make them even better, sometimes he has to break our hearts of stone to make room for the gift of His Grace. It hurts when your heart is breaking, but the grace is so much more wonderful than we can possibly imagine. We just have to allow God to fill our hearts with His joy. Sometimes He uses other people to do this. Sometimes it's just a revelation that He drops there. But we have to be open and ready to hear and accept His grace.