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Archive for December, 2013

In defense of Santa

If you do any reading of conservative Christian blogs, you may have noticed that Santa’s approval ratings are in the toilet. Lots of stuff about parents setting their children up for disappointment. Lots of stuff about reality. Lots of stuff about how the focus of Christmas should be on Christ. All of these things are true. However, I don’t agree with most of these viewpoints.

Santa gives gifts to children. Santa can travel the wold in one night, shimmying down chimneys and eating cookies. Santa can also get into the homes of people without chimneys by some clever means. Santa keeps a “naughty” list and a “nice” list. Of course none of these things are true. They are make-believe. But I think the key word is “believe.”

Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Savior. About praising a God who chose to put on flesh and walk the Earth among us. About giving us THE only gift that ever matters.

So where does Santa fit in to the celebration? He fits in the land of imagination and the belief in something we can’t see, but that we see the evidence of. He lives not in the North Pole, but in the hearts of parents and children who want to hold on to the spirit of Christmas. He lives in the minds of kids who can’t wait to wake up on Christmas morning because they insist they heard sleigh bells and hoof steps on their roof. He lives in the magic and innocence of childhood.

Our world works so hard at exposing our children to reality. They get heavy doses of it when they go to schools secured by locked doors, video cameras, and metal detectors. They are shown so much of the world at younger and younger ages. They know too much, too young. All of this knowledge robs them of their childhoods in incremental ways every single day.

In steps Santa with his soft red coat and fur-lined hat. With his belly laugh and bag of goodies. And a bit of imagination comes back into their lives. We see our kids having tea parties with their stuffed animals. They have adventures with Buzz and Woody. They leap around the back yard as pirates, or ninjas, or cowboys. And they are children once again, with their innocence and hope in the world.

I think Santa helps teach children what generosity and grace looks like. No, he isn’t real. No, he isn’t the focus of Christmas. But to say that by putting a few gifts under the tree or a few goodies in a stocking takes the focus off of Jesus is to do a disservice to the loving parents who simply want to help their children stay children as long as possible. I think believing in Santa helps teach children in how to believe in other things they can’t see.

I know that there are parents who don’t practice an approach of moderation when it comes to Santa. They write letters and pay good money for someone to write then back with a postmark from the North Pole. They download reindeer watch apps. They spend crazy amounts of money on gifts and give Santa all the credit. And that’s ok, too. That works for them.

For the rest of us, we let out kids sit on the lap of a stranger dressed in a red suit. We nibble the cookies and take a sip of egg nog. We stay up until the wee hours of Christmas morning assembling toys. And even though our kids know in their hearts that they have, at times, been naughty, they still find gifts under the tree when they stumble into the living room, wiping the sleep from their eyes.

Because they got gifts that they didn’t deserve. Ones that they asked for but never earned.

And that, my friends, is grace. That is what I feel every time I think if that baby lying in the manger. When I think of our Blessed Mother Mary cradling the Savior of the world in that stable, knowing that he came to save her soul. And ours.

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