As the mythology goes, he gives gifts to the children who've been nice all year and gives coal to the children who've been bad. So "be good for goodness sakes!"
As I mentioned in a previous post about Jolly Ol' Saint Nick, we don't do Santa. Actually, this year I think even Charlotte, our closest thing to a believer, put her Santa hopes to rest. (It's hard to tell; she'll probably change her mind again.) Outside of TV and radio, the topic never came up.
There is one point about the Santa story that I make an effort to talk about every year -- usually this happens when prompted by a song or a movie. In the holiday tune "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," Santa makes two lists, those of the naughty and those of the nice. As the mythology goes, he gives gifts to the children who've been nice all year and gives coal to the children who've been bad. So "be good for goodness sakes!"
That's the opposite of what really happens.
I say something like "That's the opposite of what really happens." Then we talk about the fact that we all are sinful and do not deserve any gifts. We talk about Adam and Eve and the serpent in the garden. And we talk about Jesus.
The traditional Santa mythology is a flip flop of the gospel message, and that's the real danger of Santa Claus.
The truth is that God has made us good in Jesus; we were not good already. Our default position is not good but naughty, very. So, unless we're saying Santa is bringing sacks of coal for everyone, we are on very thin ice here. At a time when we mean to be celebrating Jesus, the Christ, we're handing out (and handing down) something else entirely.
In training children to expect a gift from Santa while also saying he only gives gifts to those who deserve them, we are training children to think they are good and have no need of a Savior.
This point is nearly the same as the first, I know, but it is worth repeating. Children can understand -- and more than that, love -- the gospel. Protecting them from the truth of their sin and the pitiful state of human-kind, is not only unhelpful but harmful. It is also unnecessary. We shouldn't be training our children to expect to earn God's love and protection by the good works they do. They will carry this into adulthood.
The kids and I also talk about what a gift is -- something given freely, without any payment.
Wages are earned; gifts are received.
The kids and I also talk about what a gift is -- something given freely, without any payment. A lot of what we traditionally do in Christmas gift-giving are just trades, so it is easy to lose the real nature of a gift. Applying this misinterpretation to our rightness with God is dangerous, so in conversation, we point out the difference: Mommy and Daddy don't give you presents because you've earned them; we give you presents to show we love you.
There's certainly more that I could say here, but I'm stepping down from my soapbox now.
It's time to change a dirty diaper.
Mommy and Daddy don't give you presents because you've earned them but because we love you.