Christmas is an enigma.
The Christmas holiday was created to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and yet even people around the world who hate Jesus celebrate it.
I’m thankful – not that anyone hates Jesus, but that much of the world celebrates Jesus whether they intend to or not. God may use it to draw them to Himself and reveal His great love for them.
I confess, though. I’ve been among the grumblers who complain that Christmas has been hijacked. Santa and his gazillion gifts under the tree have taken the world’s eyes off of Jesus.
And now one of his elves is on a shelf? Can
The good news is we don’t need to panic over a Christmas coup.
Instead, we can simply refocus our families back onto Christ with a little intentionality and a lot of fun.
Four Christmas Strategies: Involve, Invite, Ignore, or Implore
Within any church, you’ll typically find four opinions about Christmas traditions that range from fully involving Santa and other non-biblical traditions to basically imploring his demise.
Involve: Some families choose to fully involve the Santa traditions into their family fun while maintaining their commitment to exalt Christ over all.
Invite: Others invite Santa to have a small part in their family traditions. They use him as a game and a way to point to Jesus and Christ-like giving, not as a man their children should believe in.
Ignore: Some choose to quietly and peaceably ignore Santa and his elf. Santa doesn’t get a
Implore: A few families implore the Christian community to ban Santa and his cohorts. They maintain Christmas must include only solid Christian traditions. They don’t desire to be critical of those who don’t agree. They’re just passionate about their beliefs.
Let’s look at how we can implement any of these four strategies well.
Ignore and Implore: Christ Alone – Leave Santa on the Shelf
Christmas is a joyous occasion and doesn’t need anyone or anything other than Jesus to make it fun.
Other traditions may enhance your celebration but aren’t necessary. For some families, these other traditions serve only to distract them, and thus they choose to remove them.
If Santa isn’t part of your holiday plans, your challenge centers mainly on how to keep your children from feeling resentful over missing out on some of the fun their Santa-loving friends are having.
But resentments dwindle as excitement rises for the many fun activities available for celebrating Christmas that don’t involve Santa. Between the music, plays, books, and decorations, children can rejoice all season without Santa or his elf.
If this is your choice, I encourage you with this plea: Teach your children not to criticize families who’ve chosen to include Santa and other popular Christmas traditions.
Be careful how you discuss the subject in front of your children. They hear more than we think they do and repeat it to their friends less tactfully than we wish they would.
As a friend of mine said, Santa isn’t Jesus, but he isn’t Satan, either.
If your family bans Santa, ban with benevolence. Let God’s glory and His love for the world He came to save drive you in all you do.
Remember that celebrating Christmas isn’t in the Bible. There are no biblical mandates for celebrating Jesus’ birthday.
He didn’t give His disciples the Great Commission and a Christmas Program.
A Christian could totally ignore Christmas and still be faithful to Scripture.
What encourages us to celebrate is the miraculous biblical account of His birth, the joyful celebration of the angels to the shepherds, and numerous examples of how God commanded His people to celebrate other miraculous events throughout history like Passover.
Involve and Invite: Let Santa Point Your Kids to Jesus
Santa isn’t in the Bible, and he isn’t real. But he was.
I don’t mean the jolly man in the red suit, but St. Nicholas – a bishop from the 4th century with a giving heart and firm commitment to pointing everyone to Christ.
St. Nick’s life inspired the myth that’s morphed into today’s jolly old Santa with a bag of toys for girls and boys, eight flying reindeer, and a fancy sled..
As you introduce your kids to the modern-day myth of Santa, teach your kids about the ancient hero St. Nicholas who inspired him. (Check out Eric Elder’s book: St. Nicholas, The Believer: A New Story For Christmas Based On The Old Story Of St. Nicholas)
Tell of St. Nick’s Christ-like giving that led to the Santa we know who only gives and never takes– except for the cookies left out for him.
Let Santa point your kids to Christ by displaying his worshipful heart for the Lord Jesus.
Then when they hear the stories of Santa and his reindeer taking gifts to children around the world, they’ll remember the truth of the 4th century St. Nick who inspired Christ-like giving.
When Make-Believe and Truth Meet
Most churches don’t have a problem with pretending. Adults dress up as real Bible characters to teach children true stories from the Bible.
The Good Samaritan was a parable – a story that teaches a spiritual truth – not a real person. He didn’t exist, but we act
Kids understand make-believe.
As a child, I knew I wasn’t a world-famous singer, Lipizzaner Stallion, or mommy with a new baby, but I pulled off impressive imitations. (At least I impressed myself.)
My son rotated between being a soldier, a cop, and a T-Rex.
Let make-believe be make-believe and truth be
Forget the Reindeer Games – Let the Santa Games Begin
Poor Rudolph didn’t get to play in any reindeer games. Perhaps he’d like to play a Santa game.
Use your creativity and turn the tradition of Santa into a fun family game such as these:
1. In the spirit of St. Nicholas, secretly bless a person or family and try not to get caught.
Our family once put an entire turkey dinner onto the doorstep of a single working mom, rang the doorbell, and then ran. We prayed a neighborhood dog wouldn’t wander up and eat it before she found it.
2. In large families, draw names to get to play Santa for the Day.
In the spirit of the popular tradition of Secret Santa, the family member who’s playing Santa secretly displays the love of Jesus in some way to bless a family member sometime during that day without getting caught.
At bedtime the family celebrates what they did and draws a new name for the next day.
On Christmas Eve, Mom or Dad get to be Santa. Then let your kids sleep by the tree to try and “catch Santa” putting out the toys. (Not once did our kids wake up as we put the gifts around the tree.)
I’m always mulling over different ways to play the Santa Game. Got any ideas you want to share? Leave a comment.
Move Over Elf on a Shelf
If your kids are begging you to hide an elf on a shelf, but like me, you find him a bit creepy and demanding, tell the elf to move over.
There’s a new kid in town. The Shepherd on a Search.
This lovable, less-complicated shepherd boy is on a search for the baby Jesus in the
One Santa Tradition to Drop
While I enjoy inviting Santa to help us celebrate the birth of Jesus, I recommend dropping at least one Santa tradition. Drop the “Santa is watching you to see if you’re bad or good” thing.
Teaching children that gifts are only for those who are good contradicts the message of Christmas. Jesus didn’t come to earth for the “righteous” but for sinners (Matthew 9:13).
His gift of salvation isn’t based on being good. If it were, none could get saved. We’re all bad through and through (Romans 2:23-26; Jeremiah 17:9).
Celebrate with the World to Win the World
Whether you choose to celebrate Christmas with or without Santa, I pray that those around you who celebrate without Jesus will see Him in you.
The birth of our Savior and their salvation are worth celebrating in style.
Have a Very Merry Christmas!
Heading Off a Christmas Coup – Four Ways To Keep #Christmas Focused on #Christ Click To Tweet
Learn more about these three great resources.
Children’s author Michelle Medlock Adams’ new alphabet book C is for Christmas does a beautiful job of mingling Christmas traditions with biblical truth without lessening Jesus or elevating Santa.
Read my review here.
To learn the true story of St. Nick, I recommend this book by pastor and author Eric Elder: St. Nicholas: The Believer: A New Story For Christmas Based On The Old Story Of St. Nicholas.
Read my review here.
Josh and Lindsey Helm created The Shepherd on the Search as the Christian alternative to the Elf on a Shelf. This lovable shepherd is lots of fun for families and keeps the focus on Jesus.
Read about it here.