I’m one of those parents. I told both of my children that Santa Claus is make believe as soon as they could say his name. It’s been an interesting process. At 2 years old, both of them have tried to convince Stephanie and me that he’s real. Their arguments weren’t very persuasive, but I applaud their efforts. Once a stranger in Wal-Mart tried to convince Noah that Santa was real and he kept looking at her funny. When she walked away defeated he turned to Stephanie and said, “Mommy, does she really think Santa Claus is real?” I think he felt bad for her.
Before you think I’m the meanest dad ever for spoiling my kids’ fun I do have my reasons. (1) I cried when I found out Santa was make believe. It was like having someone kill your favorite uncle without giving him a proper funeral. I would rather my children not go through that. (2) Stephanie and I work hard to provide for our family and buy our children gifts. I’m not real keen on a fictitious fat man getting the credit. (3) I’m working really hard to convince my children that Jesus is real, even though they’ll never see Him in person in this life. Doing the same thing for someone who isn’t real makes me a little uneasy. I don’t think it’s wrong to tell your kids that Santa is real, it can be a lot of fun for the family. It’s a matter of conscience, not black and white right or wrong. Our consciences simply haven’t permitted it.
It turns out there’s another awesome reason to let your kids in on the secret early that I never thought about. Santa Claus preaches a false gospel. Here’s what I mean. A couple weeks ago we were all in the family minivan and Noah said something profound out of nowhere. He said, “I’m glad Santa isn’t real, because sometimes I’m mean, and if Santa was real I would never get presents.”
He had a point, sometimes he is mean. For that matter, so am I. I’m frequently mean (some of you already think I’m perpetually mean for not letting my kids believe in Santa), I’m almost always selfish, and despite my job as a campus pastor I sin all the time. If getting good gifts depended on my performance I would be lucky to live in the slums. The very essence of the good news of Santa Claus is: “If you behave and are very good you will get good gifts. Remember, I’m making a list and checking it twice. Are you naughty or are you nice?” So what’s really cool is that my 5 year old prefers the true gospel of Jesus Christ to the false gospel of Santa Claus.
The True Gospel of Jesus Christ
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the exact opposite of the good news of Santa Claus. The Bible tells us that our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone.” If we’re hoping to impress God enough with our performance to get anything from Him we’re in bad shape. Instead, because we’re deceitful, not good. And because we can never do anything to please God, Jesus became our substitute. One verse I never seem to get tired of is 2 Corinthians 15:2 that says, “for our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (ESV). The only way to be good is to be found in Christ.
God has his own list, it’s called the Lamb’s book of life. People written in that book are expected to good things, but those are done from salvation, not for salvation. In other words, Christians are created for good works, not from good works. Many of us are like young children, trying to be good enough to please God so that we can get presents. But we’ll never do it, not without Jesus. So the very essence of the good news of Jesus Christ is: “You’re not good, but I am. Trust me, believe me, and I’ll take your sin and give you my righteousness. I’ll write you down on my list, and I’ll never blot you out … even though you’ll still be bad. I know you’re naughty, but I’m perfect, and my Father will see My perfection when He looks at your flaws.”
So whether you tell your kids about Santa or not, I hope you have a great Christmas. But I hope you’re lifting Jesus higher than Santa. I hope you and your children remember the gospel of Jesus Christ all year long. I hope to see your name on the same list mine is on … the Lamb’s book of life.