Funny how things change.
I vividly remember being one of the few I knew who adopted “house” or “organic” church ideas back in the day, way before it became more popular and buzz worthy. I remember being more anti-tradition and people getting all upset at me for questioning the status quo. Funny how some of the same have seen what I’ve seen and become even more dogmatic than I was then.
In regards to Christmas, it is true that most of our traditions around Christmas are non-Christian in origin. The tree, the presents, and even the date itself are borrowed from pre-Christian Roman sun worship (equinox and all that).
More problematic to me than any of it is the whole myth of Santa Claus. Let’s look at what some people tell children about Santa as if it is actually true. He is an immortal man, can do supernatural things, is omniscient, and rewards those who are good based on his omniscient knowledge. Not only that, but how we’ve taken the gift giving superfatman and connected him to a capitalistic consumer driven season. He sits on a throne. In malls and department stores. And people line their kids up just to tell him what they want for Christmas.
None of this is true, and yet we tell kids that it is. Multimillion dollar movies are made almost every year based on this myth. We have a secular media that rarely acknowledges the truth and the foundation for what Christmas is supposed to be about, and yet they highly value and contribute to a myth.
So my kids don’t know that much about Santa. We don’t make a big deal out of it, but my children know that friends and relatives give them gifts, not some imaginary person. And we try to be sensitive to those children who believe in Santa Claus by telling Micah that he probably shouldn’t tell them … but for me it is halfhearted because I’m rebel enough to not care if some kids get upset when you tell them the truth.
I remember a wise woman, one of my mothers in the faith. Her name is Rose Palmer, and she was an older woman from Jamaica, about five feet tall, but I was totally humbled by her on a regular basis. I remember many of the things she said to me, usually in some sort of loving and stern rebuke, but I will always remember this one thing she said to me when I was a teenager.
She talked about how she never told her children fairy tales. She told them stories from the Bible. And those stories are amazing enough, but they are true.
While Micah loves all types of entertainment, he is also in awe of stories about David and Goliath or Daniel in the lion’s den, or the three young men in a fiery furnace. And he loves to watch movies about Jesus, to hear stories about what He did, who He healed and that He died and rose again.
And I make sure to continually point out to Micah that cartoon characters and superheroes are not real. Micah told me one time how strong the Hulk was. I said, “You’re stronger.” He looked confused. I explained. “You’re stronger because you are real. The Hulk is imaginary and can’t pick anything up. He can’t do anything. You are stronger than the Hulk and Superman and all the other superheroes put together because they are pretend and you are real.” He understood.
Then Micah said, “But God is the strongest of all.” Why? “Because He is real.”
I don’t boycott Christmas. If I boycotted Christmas because of its non-Christian origins and traditions, then I’d also have to skip Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Valentines Day, and a host of others. Non-Christian origins or traditions mean nothing to me; they have no power in and of themselves, only what we in our ignorance believe about them or give power to.
And honestly, I think that a time to meditate on the birth of Christ is fine and completely healthy, no matter when you do it. All four gospels have some version of His birth for a reason, and the testimony of how the Word became flesh is obviously essential.
While I don’t boycott the holiday, I do think it is important to focus on what is the truth and the message of the whole deal, and whether our secular society wants to value it or not, it is all about Jesus and Him alone, and by extension, the people in whom He dwells. By necessity, that means that other things that are completely unnecessary distractions and substitutions, like Santa, have to get way less focus or are ignored completely. It is opportunity cost, to use an economic term. In other words, all that time I could spend getting my kids to believe in Santa, I could use to teach them about something real and much deeper.
And I won’t have to admit it was all a myth at some point in the future.
Those are my thoughts, for what they are worth. I hope that we all use the time our culture gives us not to save an economy or uphold empty traditions but to invest our time to the things that have eternal weight.
Give to those in need. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Spend time with those you love. Try to be the gift instead of getting them. The world needs that a whole lot more than another dumb movie about Santa Claus.