3 Reasons Christians Need to Relax This Christmas
Some Christians can’t seem to stop being obstructionists. They think they’re stopping the world from treading on the Gospel, when in truth, they’re making the Gospel ineffective. And nothing demonstrates this truth more than the imaginary Christmas wars.
I remember standing in line at a packed Target a couple of years ago, and there was this guy in a Jesus t-shirt behind me talking to his young daughter about Santa. A woman in an adjacent lane yelled for all to hear, “You call yourself a Christian and teach your daughter about Santa? Shame on you.” She turned smugly back to her cart, and the man (to his credit) quietly waited to checkout and leave.
Santa’s legend springs from the story of Nikolaos of Myra, the 4th-century bishop of Myra. Nikolaos was well known for his giving of gifts, and was celebrated (and sainted) after his death. Celebration of Nikolaos has morphed over time and cultures into the legend of Santa Claus.
I understand why some Christians would choose to not celebrate Santa during Christmas, and I celebrate their freedom not to. But here’s a couple reasons I think Christians need to lighten up (or at least shut up) during the holiday season:
1. Christians stole Christmas
Let’s face it, we don’t know when Jesus was born. Between various ancient calenders, traditions, and lack of any hard evidence, there’s no way to know with any certainty. We stole just about everything element (including the date) from other religions and celebrations:
- We stole the date from the Roman celebration of Saturnalia
- Christmas trees have pagan European origins
- Mistletoe was a plant used to encourage fertility
- This is only the beginning . . .
We didn’t just adopt a date to attach Christian significance to, we stole a date and all the accouterments, wrote Jesus on them, and decided they’re ours. It’s almost comical to watch some Christians stand in the public square and scream about the “war on Christmas.”
This doesn’t diminish the validity of these elements to me. These stolen pieces of our Christmas tradition take on the significance (or lack thereof) I give them.
2. Santa doesn’t threaten Jesus
We did the Santa thing with our kids, and even they thought it was fanciful and silly. I think they went with it because we enjoyed it so much. But their questions, even at a young age, betrayed the lack of faith they had in the idea of Santa. “Dad, we don’t even have a chimney.” “How is he at two malls and this store simultaneously?” “How come he writes in your handwriting?”
I’ve had people tell me that I was was responsible for bearing false witness to my kids by incorporating Santa into our Christmas traditions. I personally think it’s a cultural myth and not a parental lie, and studies show kids finding out that there isn’t really a Santa Claus doesn’t scar them.
Does incorporating Santa into Christmas put the faith of children at risk?
My favorite argument is that when children find out there is no Santa Claus, how are they supposed to be believe in Jesus? As a parent, if your “belief” in Santa is demonstrated with the same kind of fervency and diligence that you show in your faith in Christ, Santa isn’t the problem.
Once a year we trotted out Santa and made him an auxiliary part of our religious festivities. When Christmas was over, Santa was stored up with all the Christmas decorations until next year. We celebrate, follow, and strive to be like Jesus all year long. It should be obvious where our true faith lies.
3. We don’t have to protect the Gospel
The Gospel has withstood overt and specific attacks. Many nations and governments that would have loved to abolish Christianity have faded into obscurity, or, in some cases, even oblivion. Our job as believers isn’t to protect Christianity from the world; it’s to take the Gospel into the world. Leaving cookies out for Santa, or having a clerk tell me “happy holidays’ isn’t a threat to the kingdom of God.
Christmas is one time of year when people are open to hearing about, discussing, and even singing about Jesus. It’s an incredible opportunity to display God’s care, acceptance, and love of the world by displaying it. Instead we put the culture on the defensive by striving for some hyper-orthodoxy and throwing down the gauntlet in some made-up cultural war.
As is the case in so many areas, Christians often make the dreadful choice of choosing dogma over hospitality. Are there areas where we need to make a stand? Absolutely. There are dreadful things happening in the world. Is a Christian talking to his toddler about Santa one of them? I doubt it.