Christmas tradition vs. the gospel

i opened up one of those "group discount" email promotions today, and this was the first line:
Nothing embodies the holiday season like Santa—and nothing gets kids more excited than a personalized letter from Mr. Claus himself.
i wasn't ready for my reaction, but my heart literally sank. maybe it's because i'm listening to "Mary did you know" on repeat in preparation for singing it next week at our Bible study? i don't know why it hit me so hard, but the notion that "Nothing embodies the holiday season like Santa" sickened me.

i'm not going to tell you that incorporating santa into your Christmas tradition is bad or evil or terribly misleading for your kids. i've heard all the arguments and i know everyone has their own convictions on the issue, some stronger than others. i've always been sort of indifferent. we don't make a great big deal out of him, but we also don't act like he's an instrument of satan, you know? my daughter knows who santa is when she sees a bearded man in a red suit, she sits on his lap and receives a gift from him in person, at our family christmas parties where an uncle dresses up and hands out gifts. we don't actually address christmas morning gifts "to reese, from santa"... not for any other reason than we want to gifts to come from us, her actual parents. we just haven't put much thought into making him a big deal either way. indifference is all it is, it's not some huge conviction, just indifference.

though that email made me cringe, i'm not going to banish santa from our house. it'll just stay as it always has. it's sort of like the debate over halloween, right? personally, i just can't believe it's inherently evil to dress up in a cute costume and walk around your neighborhood asking for candy from adoring neighbors. however, our choir/worship director at church pointed this out a few weeks ago, just before halloween:
[i'm paraphrasing] it's not that dressing up for halloween is sinful, in and of itself, but we need to be mindful of the devil's schemes. he wants to distract us from the joy that's coming soon at christmas, by sticking halloween in there. it's all "smoke and mirrors". it's all just a scheme to get our focus off Christ and onto anything else he possibly can.
any distraction - whether the thing itself is inherently evil or not - anything that takes our focus off Christ is a success for the enemy. celebrating halloween, the easter bunny, santa and christmas trees. it's all smoke and mirrors. it's all a distraction. christians have strong opinions on both sides of these traditions/holidays. you see the claws come out every year. why we shouldn't go trick-or-treating, why we shouldn't have a christmas tree and why santa is evil... sometimes we allow the debate itself to become the biggest distraction of all. the devil is crafty and he's been around for thousands of years longer than the rest of us. he knows how to get us off track, and he'll even use our own "religion" against us in that way. let's not give him an inch.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .  so back to the email, and the original intent for this post . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

you guys, when i read that line in that email i had a renewed sense of urgency to make sure that my daughter knows the real Person who "embodies the holiday season". that nothing or no one but Jesus Christ, the atonement for her sin, who entered the world to take on a human body so that He could defeat sin and death forever, gets her "more excited"... that only the simple yet transcendent Truth of the gospel gets her most excited. 

she's going to take her cues from me. if i make santa the most important thing about christmas, she will too. and then what can i expect from her? if i make it about Jesus, she'll likely do the same. i know that friends and family and media will have a LOT influence on her [likely more influence than i have someday], and i don't need to be feeding into whatever nonsense she's already getting from the world. i want to give her as much Truth as possible and pray that it makes the difference. we can't control everything, but we can control the ways and the things we teach our precious children.


i had the opportunity to share a mini gospel message with my daughter yesterday. she was pointing to baby Jesus in the nativity. "there's baby Jesus, right there, with His family," she said :) i've told her before that Christmas is Jesus' birthday and we like to decorate our house to celebrate His birthday because He's so special to us... but she didn't know why He was so special.

i'm not sure how much a 2 year old can really comprehend when it comes to God, Jesus, spirituality, things that can't be seen or touched... but i tried anyway. yesterday i got to tell her that Jesus came to wipe away all our sins. that sins are all those bad things we do that we shouldn't do, that we get in trouble for doing [she completely understood what i meant by that]. that because we do all those sins, God should be mad at us and should punish us, but instead He sent His son Jesus to be born so that He could take the punishment for those sins. since Jesus took the punishment, and if we accept this gift from Him, God is able to wipe away all our sins and after that God sees us as if we're perfect people who have never done anything wrong. Jesus was born on Christmas, and because He's so special and wiped away all our sins, we want to celebrate Him. He's the happiest thing that ever happened to us. she was smiling ear to ear. it made my heart so content for that moment, to know she'd heard the Truth straight from me.

i know it's hard to be a parent. i know lots of you don't "do" santa, and that's okay. i just hope that we ARE doing grace, hope, peace, joy, redemption, Jesus. it can get confusing and overwhelming and maybe you already have strict policies about your holiday traditions.

i hope that whatever you do, it includes the Truth that Nothing embodies the holiday season like Jesus Christ, God in a body, the savior of the world...


  1. so good, aly.
    keep seeking him and shining him like you are!

    so encouraged by you, praise jesus! xo

  2. Such wisdom and fitly spoken... I couldn't agree more:)

  3. I love this. I've been wondering how we will handle santa with 5ohBaby. Thanks for the advice

  4. great post, little mama! i'm feeling the itch to tell this year...after they grow up a bit, it starts to feel more and more deceptive to not share that "santa" is a tradition we pretend for fun. so i think the gig is up, and i'm glad because i want credit for my thoughtful gift-giving! just kidding. hug.

  5. Found your Blog and this post and wow, thank you. We've been talking about St Nicholas and how the "Jolly Santa Clause" stemmed from him. I hadn't however, thought about the distraction...that Santa is a distraction is soooo true. I kind of like the idea of Santa and elves and the 'magic of Christmas', but where does that leave the most amazing, incredible gift of Jesus birth? We will still have have the stockings this year but I am planning some new traditions to commence Christmas 2012 in the lead up to celebrating Jesus birthday. With thanks.