What we know today as the Christmas season has a long history. The celebration of the Winter Solstice and related mid-Winter celebrations and holidays have been part of the cultures of most of the world’s people far back into antiquity. Rome had various celebrations during this time of year as did most of the people of Europe. Most of the iconic traditions of the Christmas season can be traced to various pagan cultures and, so, continue to connect the modern holiday to the ancient celebrations of various people groups. And while there are vast differences between how this season is celebrated throughout the world, many of the traditions have common roots.
In more recent times Evangelicals and other conservative Christians have engaged themselves in a culture war over the meaning of Christmas as a holiday in the United States. The common refrains of “Christ is the reason for the season,” or “keep Christ in Christmas” have become rallying cries for many Baptists as they enter the fray over the meaning of Christmas. And, in some cases there are good reasons for Christians to be concerned about the dilution of Christmas. However, Christmas has no real Christian origins. Jesus, or His disciples, never taught that the birth of Himself was to become a holiday for regular observance. In fact, none of the holidays identified with Christianity, including Easter, find their institution in the Bible. And so, for Baptists, it can be rightly asserted that there is no biblical justification for Christmas at all. Yet the celebration is not without merit.
The idea of taking a special time to remember the coming of the Lord is a great idea. The idea that there is value in remembering the great condescension of God to take on the fullness of humanity in order to make satisfaction on our behalf is a reflection of a Gospel-oriented sense of value. The centrality of Jesus Christ during Christmas is something that Christians should seek to cultivate in every season. Yet, many Christians fail to even focus on Jesus Christ in a committed way during the Christmas season. Christians join with the world every year in propagating a great deception which does more than dilute the meaning of Christmas and distract people from the birth of Jesus Christ, it outright contradicts it.
I am speaking of Santa Claus. Many Christians will profess that Jesus is the reason for their Christmas celebrations and simultaneously that Santa Claus is the one who brings gifts to their children. There is only one phrase that can describe this second figure in Christmas celebrations: a lie. Santa Claus and everything about him is a great deception that has no merit at all for Christians. A simple examination of the attributes of this fictional character should turns the stomachs of those who love the Gospel of Grace. “He sees you when you’re sleeping; he knows when you’re awake; he knows if you’ve been bad or god; so, be good for goodness sake. … He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.” This is a god-like figure with omniscience and a strict accounting of moral uprightness. And the consistent picture of Santa Claus is one who brings gifts for all the good girls and boys and passes over the naughty ones. This is hardly a figure with any Gospel characteristics, yet he is welcomed into the homes and celebrations of many Christian families.
And the worst part about Santa Claus is that he is an outright fabrication. He doesn’t exist, he has no power, nor any gifts to bring. Yet, Christians who would be shocked at being called liars and deceivers are just that. To tell your children something that is not true is a lie. Good parents seek to cultivate honesty and truthfulness in their children, yet many Christian parents join the world in this great deception called Santa Claus and think nothing of it. And, these Christian parents do so when there is no reason at all to lie to their children. Why is the message that Immanuel, God with Us, has come and that God has given Him to us as a gift in order to accomplish our salvation not enough? Why is the message of Jesus Christ not enough for some Christians?
No easy answer is forthcoming except for a realization at the struggle even believers have with sin, but why does the church not call its members to a higher standard. If a person were to habitually lie they would be called a liar and ought to be subject to church discipline for dishonoring themselves and the name of Jesus Christ. Yet millions of so-called Christians do this very thing every single year and are never challenged on it. This is a Gospel issue. If a person is willing to lie about something as frivolous and bereft of meaning as Santa Claus, why would their children or anyone else trust their testimony about Jesus Christ? It is a betrayal of our Lord to profess faith in him and then encourage faith in Santa Claus amongst our children. And it betrays a failure on the part of those who engage in the promulgation of this lie to separate themselves from the things of the world when the separation is truly simple and the benefits truly profound. Isn’t Jesus a good enough reason to celebrate? Isn’t his coming to us in the form of a baby, living the perfect life that we could not, suffering on our behalf on the cross, and rising again to secure eternal life for us a powerful and awesome enough message to merit celebrating all year long? Why mix that great a message with anything else? Why make yourself a liar to your children and to the world? Why compromise on something so utterly devoid of value or meaning? Why betray your Lord for the sake of a fat man in a red suit? Repent and return to your first Lord this Christmas season!