Last night in the car, I took a quick moment to explain to our kids why we don’t believe in Santa Claus. Afterwards 4-year-old Stephen said “What would happen if Santa Claus was real? Nobody would get presents! Only God.”
The amount of theology packed into that statement is incredible, and it’s something I never considered, but the dude makes an excellent point. Santa Claus offers us no good news.
One of the many reasons that Santa is a dangerous idea is because he teaches a completely works-based righteousness; rewards for being good and punishment for being bad. If a child really believes in Santa Claus, and sees good behavior as the source of presents, they are from a young age trained to be motivated by selfishness: “I want presents so I’d better be good.”
But the reality the Bible (Romans 3 especially) tells us is that “No one is good, not even one.” I suppose a nagging thought I always had about Santa was “How bad do you have to be to make it on the naughty list?” If I got A’s and B’s all year, didn’t say any bad words, but never cleaned my room or ate my vegetables, am I still going to get presents? Or am I not going to get as many presents as I would if I was more well-behaved?
I have the same questions for my friends who come from works-based religions (which is, as far as I can tell, every religion but Christianity.) Good people go to Heaven? How good do I have to be? I lie sometimes and I’m really lazy. Is that a deal-breaker?
If we find ourselves in the middle between a perfect person and a serial killer, how do we know if we’re “good enough”?
James 2:10 makes it really clear: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”
So, as my son so accurately pointed out, if Santa Claus was real, nobody would get presents. We have all sinned and continue to sin. To use a gross example, if we’re making brownies and only one ingredient is cow dung, the whole batch is obviously inedible. Even if our whole lives were perfect but we messed up one time, we are still guilty before a holy and perfect God.
But then here comes the good news that Santa Claus does not bring:
A Savior has been born.
Our badness has not gone unnoticed by our Creator, but He Himself became one of us and died in our place, rising again and welcoming us to eternity with Him. He’s both the Judge and the Justifier. (Romans 3 again.) On our good days and on our bad days, the perfect righteousness of Jesus is the only factor that determines whether we ourselves are deserving of Heaven. As Stephen suggested, Jesus is the is the only one who would make it on the Nice List, but all who believe in Him get a permanent spot on the Nice List too.
Let’s tell our kids the truth, because the truth is far better news than Santa Claus.
Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy
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My name is Hope.
I'm 26, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 6, 4, 3, and squishy-baby. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today