Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were strewn on the floor without care.
Gifts and candy were gone; but who knows where?
Mom is exhausted and Dad is so tense.
How will we pay for those gifts or the rent?
The kids overwhelmed, the sugar rush real,
Why did we buy without stopping to kneel?
Father, forgive us for leaving You out.
Show us the way to turn Christmas about,
Your love gifts of mercy, forgiveness and grace,
Reside in our hearts and should shine on our face.
Help us look inward to check our hearts,
Then make plans for next year to do our part.
Live out the gospel; love, peace and joy.
Give them our time, and not just a toy.
I’m not Scrooge, or the Grinch. But I do long for Christmas to be something other than what it has morphed into over the years.
I didn’t feel always this way. There was a time when Santa was an integral part of our celebration. Every year my husband’s friend grew his white beard a littler longer, just in time for the holidays. He was portly, and with a red suit, I have to admit he did resemble Ole’ Saint Nick.
Our oldest daughter is a realist. At four, she decided there was no Santa. How could he possibly make it in and out of chimneys and around the world in one night? How could he possibly know what every child wanted for Christmas? For some reason we really wanted her to believe. So, we did what every other well-meaning parent does; we lied.
We arranged for Santa, a.k.a. Bob, to visit her on her birthday. We put out cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve and carrots for Rudolph. Surely, this would help her believe. It did not.
I can’t quite figure out why it bothered us so much that she didn’t believe in Santa. Maybe we somehow wanted to relieve our childhoods, when the only Christmas programs on TV involved Rudolph, Frosty, and The Little Drummer Boy. Maybe it was the fun of engaging in fantasy, just for a little while, when the rest of life was stressful. Maybe we did it because that’s what our parents did. Most likely, it was a combination of all of the above. Or maybe we entered into the fantasy in attempts to fill what our hearts long for, heaven.
Enter my well-meaning friend a few years later, who told me that Santa was really a mis-spelling of Satan. I was a fairly new Christian and not grounded in my theology, so I bought into it. As a new believer, I wanted to cleanse our celebration, so I gave away most of my Christmas decorations with the secular theme, and made sure my other children knew that Santa was a myth. Crazy, I know. My husband thought so too.
About ten years later, I found myself teaching kindergarten at a Christian school.
If you want a hot debate, listen to kindergartners defend their position on whether Santa is real or not! Add Elf on the shelf, Angel in the dust, Angel on the shelf, and whatever else will be marketed this year to Pandora’s box of Christmas fantasy, and the debate grows hotter. Over the last twenty years, my experience has been this: those who want to believe will, those who don’t, won’t.
The most convincing argument I ever heard from a student was last year when a sweet, Jesus loving daughter emphatically exclaimed to our class “Well, I know that Santa is real because my Daddy would never lie to me!”
As a kindergarten teacher I know the important role imagination plays in the life of young children. Stimulating creativity, processing emotions, trying out different roles are all necessary to develop healthy views of life that can carry through to adulthood. Pretend play is highly enjoyable, I might add; for both children and the adults watching or playing along. Pretending that the North Pole exists doesn’t seem so controversial if children know it’s, well, pretend.
When asked by her preschool student if Santa was real, a wise colleague answered, “Santa is a fun story. Jesus is real.” Whether my grandchildren believe in Santa or not doesn’t seem to be the focus for me anymore. The more important question has become, “Do you believe that Jesus is real?”
This Christmas, I am planning on being more intentional about my gift giving. Will I buy toys for my grandchildren? You bet, but it will come with an invitation to play together. It will be something that communicates to them how much I enjoy being with them.
I will tell them the reason for my gift, about the Greatest Gift, and the Gift Giver. I’m so glad that we don’t have to pretend that heaven or God is real. We have His Word, His Spirit, and our experience with Jesus to share with the next generation.
As we decorate our homes and go about our holiday festivities this year, why don’t we turn our focus to what we know for certain, and what we can pass on to our children in full truth: the story of a perfect babe, a Rescuer, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger.