Of Santa and Jesus

by Ashleigh Baker

Santa and Jesus

It was pizza night at Grandma’s house, a week before Christmas. Everyone was there – my uncle and two aunts, my mama and daddy. And of course there was the bevy of cousins scattered throughout each brightly lit room.

My brother was the youngest of the bunch at the time. Four years old with big eyes, ridiculously long eyelashes and warm brown hair in an early ’90s bowl cut.

The pizza guy was young and asked the routine Christmas question as he handed my dad the pizza boxes above Zach’s little head.

What’s Santa going to bring you for Christmas?

Tiny, skinny Zach looked up at him squarely.

Nothing. Santa Claus is dead.

The pizza man’s face froze and my dad couldn’t quite muffle his guffaw. This wasn’t exactly how my parents had planned it…

 

If there really were a king and queen of Christmas, my parents were that royalty. When I was the four year old of the family and my brother still a tiny newborn, I laid awake long after my parents crept to bed in the wee hours of Christmas morning. I was certain – certain – I heard Santa’s sleigh landing on the rooftop and I knew those must have been jingle bells dancing on the edges of his red suit.

Much to my delight, Santa Claus had managed to fit down the pipe of our wood burning stove, leaving muddy boot prints on the carpet, crumbling the cookies I’d left him, gulping the milk and leaving a rosy-lipped baby doll beneath the tree. He even fed Rudolph the large orange carrot I’d set beside the cookie plate and Rudolph had, in turn, left his own trail of carrot bits near the front door and outside on the doorstep.

Little did I know, at four years old, that my grandparents had helped fill our cupboards that cold 1990 winter and that the baby doll’s diaper bag left for me by Santa had been sewn from scrap fabric by my mama a few days earlier and filled with my own baby girl clothes.

To me, it was all too good to be true.

To me, it was the best Christmas ever.

 

A few more years into my childhood and my parents were hearing the arguments.

Jesus is the reason for the season.

Santa takes the place of Jesus.

Good parents don’t lie to their children!

If you mix up the letters to Santa’s name, what do you get? Satan.

 

We read books about the real Saint Nicholas and my brother and I knew the story of the kind man who became a legend for his selfless love and generosity. We knew our gifts came from our parents and we delighted in the stockings they filled for us on Christmas Eve. Our family sought the real sources of our various traditions and set up our Nativity scenes lovingly. One year when we were tiny, my mama invited friends for a “Jesus Birthday Party.”

But soon the arguments were stronger and our friends weren’t putting up Christmas trees any longer because, they said, trees set up in homes had pagan roots. We left our Santa Claus ornaments in their boxes and the cross stitched pictures of the jolly elf stayed off our walls. We decorated our tree but a friend’s daughter caught her breath and hid her eyes upon entering our home one December.

You’ll have to understand,” her mother explained in sugary tones. “She’s just having a difficult time. She simply doesn’t understand why a godly family would have a Christmas tree in their living room.”

Small ears listened as parents rolled the issue in conversation and pastors preached the evils of worldly celebrations.

We learned to step lightly during holiday time, because one family didn’t do stockings and the next family didn’t do trees and the other family simply skipped the whole thing altogether because Jesus wasn’t born in winter anyway and where does the Bible even say to celebrate His birth?

The topic, as they say, was hot. Smokin’ hot.

Well meaning adults asked what Santa had brought us and we quipped lightly, “Santa doesn’t come to our house! We celebrate Jesus!

Smug at seven years old.

 

I thought the debates would have blown over or been resolved by now, some twenty years later. But apparently some wars wage on.

Someone said it a few days ago, on Facebook or Twitter, “Parents, if you lie to your children about Santa, how do you expect them to believe you about Jesus?

 

I don’t know all the ins and outs of Christmas celebrations, nor do I know exactly where the lines are drawn between Holy Nativity and cultural holidays.

But I do know this.

I’ve never met an adult who told me the reason he has a hard time believing Christ is because his parents told him about a red suited gift-giver who turned out to be as real as pixie dust.

Instead, I talk to adults every single day who struggle with the Truth of Jesus because they spent their young years listening to Christians cut His body to pieces over trees and ornaments and brightly wrapped packages.

 

[photo source]

edited from the archives

 

 

 

 


11 Responses to “Of Santa and Jesus”

  1. Ro elliott December 17, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    Oh….I know this all too well…when my kids where young I wanted them to know the true meaning of Chritmas…I did.not grow up in a Christian home so I was determined!!!!! to keep ” Jesus is the reason for the season” and I crammed this into every situation…I had the sweatshirt to make the additional point when needed…and I started cutting out what I felt was too much…we never even did Santa …but I started slicing…until I cut every celebration to pieces …I cut the truest meaning out…and that was Joy!!! Is there really Honoring God with a joyless heart…and for me…I now realize I didn’t really know Gods love…I am real love…and when I understood He want against as much as He was for me…this changed everything…out of His love spills everything….joy and peace. My children are now married starting their own traditions…we have talked about the past…and I will now enter into the joyful celebration each one chooses…may judgment not be found among us…however we celebrate…may Joy fill our hearts and may love be the banner over us.

    One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

  2. Sidnie December 17, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    Growing up, we always did Santa. And we always did Jesus, too.

    And it wasn’t until I was a mama and the internet weaved it’s way into my life that I ever questioned Santa, that I ever wondered what the right way to do Christmas was…

    The wars that rage over these things drive me batty. I can’t make heads or tails of any of it, and in the end, all I feel is guilt.

    So. I’ve stopped trying to figure it all out, and we just do.
    We have cake for Jesus, because little ones understand that birthdays require cake. And we have a tree because I love the lights. And Santa comes through the window, or the door, or the radiator because finding presents under the tree on Christmas from a crazy, old man in a red suit is just plain fun and full of magic.

    And then we take down the decorations and store them away for next year… Out of site, out of mind for another 11 months…
    And Jesus? He never leaves us, he doesn’t get packed away with the stockings from Germany that have a Santa on them. He doesn’t get boxed up with the ornaments, even though I’ll probably buy new ones next year…
    He stays with us. Every day, every minute.

  3. Jenna December 17, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Yup.

    “Instead, I talk to adults every single day who struggle with the Truth of Jesus because they spent their young years listening to Christians cut His body to pieces over trees and ornaments and brightly wrapped packages.”

    Exactly.

  4. Gretchen Louise December 17, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    I love this post as much as the first time I read it.

    And yet, every year I hear our pastor tell the story of how hard it was for him to come to Christ because the same people who had told him of the Santa Claus that turned out to be a fake had also told him of this Jesus. But his Sunday school teacher kept praying for him…and now he’s been preaching Jesus’ name for years.

    So we tell our kids the historical story of St. Nicholas, but we’re careful to let them know that Santa Claus is about as real as the Tooth Fairy. :)

  5. Leilani Serfontein December 17, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    This touched me as I sit here longing to have a Christmas tree like we did when I was a child. I miss the excitement of decorating the tree and baking gingerbread men. I miss it because as a child in South Africa Christmas meant stinking hot summer days filled with the entire extended family together and many, many hours of happiness, laughter and love. Now, in my twenties, and emmigration(to the other end of the world), and years later, my family no longer celebrates Christmas (for many of the reasons you have listed as well as the fact that besides my parents’-in-law, & my parents) we no longer have any family in the same country. Ever since we emmigrated 12 years ago Christmas has been an empty, cold, lonely time and I long to go back to those carefree days of Christmas joy I had filled with cousins and love. Before all the heartache of the teen years and the aunties and uncles started getting divorced and a myriad of other horrible things. So now, even though my hubby (of three years) has never celebrated Christmas and it means nothing to him, I put up the same Christmas lights that we had on our tree when I was 5 and I bake gingerbread men…just so that I can remember those wonderful days. I hope to share those wonderful memories and traditions with our little ones one day! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Ashleigh! God bless, Leilani

  6. Jessica December 18, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    I really enjoyed this post, but honestly I don’t completely agree. When I found out that Santa wasn’t real, I remember the very next question I had was whether or not Jesus was real. For us we tell our children about St. Nicolas, and they do see movies that have Santa in them, but they know that Santa is pretend. It’s kind of like Mickey mouse. :)

    • Carissa Fisher December 25, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

      I am an adult that does question the existence of Jesus because of Santa. I found out when I was six. I begged for the truth about Santa. The table and chair, that I received was in a catalog, not made by elves at all! You ordered this didn’t you? Believing in the untruth is okay. It brings hope and happiness. We have faith that things will get better and sometimes, they don’t. It is good to believe, without it there is no hope.

  7. Beth December 18, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    While I may not have a hard time believing in Christ because my parents lied to me about Santa, I do have a hard time believing my parents about other things. When I finally learned the truth at an age I am incredibly embarrassed to admit (yes, I trusted my parents THAT much), other lies my parents had told me came to the surface as well.

    For them, telling me the lie of Santa opened the door to lots of other seemingly small, insignificant lies they told me and my siblings with the best of intentions. But the hurt that happened when their behavior came to light is hurt that I still struggle with today.

    So, no, I’d say you don’t talk to many adults who have trouble believing in Christ because of the lie of Santa, but please ask those same adults if they have trouble believing in their parents.

  8. DL Mayfield December 21, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    i really appreciate this perspective. what is hard for me these days is how saturated our culture is with the myth of santa and the perfect, family Christmas (I see the two very closely linked). for many of my neighbors, they are unable to give their kids the kind of presents/holiday that they see being advertised. so santa becomes another cruel reminder both to the kids (santa didn’t come to our place) and to the adults (i am failing, once again). to me, santa and the commercialization/materialistic Christmas are so damaging to people who don’t have the resources or the relational ties to make up a post-card Christmas. santa sort of sucks, in my neighborhood.

  9. Diana Trautwein December 23, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

    Thanks for this, Ashleigh. You have summarized some of the ugliness that erupts now and again within the body, ugliness that is completely unnecessary and generally unhelpful. Yes, our culture overdoes the Santa bit. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something good and fun there to enjoy. And telling the story of St. Nicholas is a great way to move into the Christmas season. A Four Square pastor here in CA wrote this piece many years ago and it got picked up by the LA Times, even. It echoes some of what you’ve said so well here. http://www.livingway.org/articles/SANTA2.html

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