Christmas Dilemma

December 22, 2006

I confess to feeling a little weird this time of year.

Santa Claus? Reindeer? Manger? Hannukah? What is this time of year, anyway?

Thirty years ago when I was baptized into Christ, I recall wondering how I would deal with the dilemma of Christmas. Would I teach my children about Santa Claus? You know, the fat old man who sees you when you’re sleeping, knows when you’re awake, and knows if you’ve been bad or good? He says he’ll only give presents to the good children, but we all know that practically everyone gets gifts from Santa (unless they are a victim of poverty…). He says he holds to a standard but really it doesn’t matter so much. When our children grow up, and realize Santa was a myth, do they transfer that permissiveness to their concept of God? Or do they consider the myth of Santa, and conclude that God too is a myth? Or do they just wonder whether Mom and Dad can be trusted to tell them the truth?

I decided that I either had to leave Santa out of Christmas, or treat it as a secular holiday. I did not think I could do both. (Rom 14:5-6). Over the years I have not been completely consistent with my initial reasoning. We tried not to lie to our children about Santa but we did permit them to believe what they picked up from the culture around us. And of course the gifts were always there by the fireplace or tree on Christmas morning. It was fun but I felt weird about it.

As for Hannukah, I really didn’t think much about it. I understood it to be a non-Biblical holiday celebrated by modern Jews since they couldn’t celebrate Jesus’ birth. Recently I learned more about the holiday from Bobby Valentine’s blog post on the subject. Hannukah is the Hebrew word for dedication. It is the same festival mentioned in John 10:22 as the Feast of Dedication. Interestingly, John mentions it as he might mention any other festival, without any indication that it was not a proper festival. John’s readers would have been familiar with the events of the Macabees (recorded in the Old Testament Apocrypha) which led to the institution of the festival. Neither John nor Jesus gave us any indication that they rejected the validity of the festival. Although there were no prophets when it was instituted, and no command from God to do so, it seems that Jesus accepted the festival as a way of honoring God for delivering his people.

Maybe I should view Christmas in the same way. That does not answer the question about Santa, but it does help me feel better about the spiritual aspects of the holiday. Hey, maybe I should celebrate Hannukah as well. Jesus and his disciples apparently did so.


  1. We decided to go along with Santa in our home. The oldest (nearly 12) has figured it out but the other two (almost 8 and 9 1/2) are holding out. We both had fond memories of the Santa myth and didn’t have a moral objection to it. Rather than seeing it as ‘lying’ to the kids we see it as nothing more than a game of pretend which every kid plays a lot of.I understand the objections of many folks and respect them. My sister’s family doesn’t do Santa. What is troubling about some is how they make it a ‘right and wrong’ issue and look in judgement on those Christians who do Santa. My sister isn’t like that. She’s taught her kids that some families do it and it’s fine for them and they are not to interfere and spoil it. We really appreciate that as to practice otherwise would really make Christmas time a mess.I guess I practice more of a secular celebration of Christmas than spiritual. In recent years though, I’ve thought more deeply of the events of Jesus birth at this time of year.

  2. I think we all struggle with this attimes and we always will. But, I for one don’t think Santa is going to send anyone to Hell. Good post!Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year

  3. Alan thanks for the plug on my Hanukkah post. I decided years ago that I could either use Christmas to teach my girls to honor God or I could throw away a great opportunity. Of course my family is hardly the standard or model … but for me and my house we have followed the “Twelve Days” of Christmas since the girls could first remember. I think it is a great way to get them to start sacralizing their life and time rather than secularizing it.And Hanukkah I have a menorah and we light a candle on each day of the festival. As I do this I teach the girls how God is always with his people and he will always deliver them. This is a lesson I think they should know.Blessings my brother,Bobby Valentine

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