Why in the world would you want to invite Santa Claus to your Christmas celebration this year? He sees you when you are sleeping. He knows when you are awake. He knows when you have been bad or good and then says, “So be good for goodness sake.” Sounds like a creepy guy, to say the least.

But seriously, why in the world would a Christian want to invite Santa Claus to their Christmas celebration this year? I know exactly why the world around us would. Santa promises everything that a natural heart wants. He promises wealth, stuff, happiness and all in a way that we can look back at the end of the year and say, “I deserved this.” My confusion comes from seeing well meaning brothers and sisters take their children by the hand and lead them to Santa Claus. They sing all the same songs. They watch all the same movies. Growing up in a nominal Christian home, I have to admit that this way the norm. Santa was just another part of the holiday or, more accurately, he contributed in equal part with Jesus in an combined effort to make the yuletide gay. I was always confused about how Jesus fit into this whole Santa story and truth be told I was more compelled by Santa anyway. He flew, had reindeer and brought me stuff; not completely dissimilar to the Jesus I was taught but with a “cooler” story. Even after I stopped believing in Santa I still considered him and old friend. It was fun to play along, as Santa brought a warmth and good feeling to the holiday season.

I wonder if this is how you have celebrated Christmas. For all of the recent talk on syncretism (the meshing together of two religions) we must not neglect to mention the blatant syncretism in the American church today. Even if we don’t believe the Jews and Muslims worship the same God as us, we do still tend to blend aspect of our culture’s religion with real gospel truth. It is my hope to suggest a better way. I think you will find more joy, not less, this holiday season if you spend it taking a long hard look at the Lord Jesus. Oh that we would be more like Mary who pondered the Christmas events in her heart and treasured them above all else (Luke 2:19). Jesus is far greater than Santa.

Is it sinful to celebrate Santa?

I don’t want to say no right out of hand. It probably is in some ways. First, it is a lie. Telling our children that Santa is real is simply not an act of truth telling. Lying is certainly a sin against God and it won’t do much to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Second, Santa represents a false message. Santa rewards based on merit. Do we want our kids to be good? Yes! The Christian life is a virtuous life. But virtue is not the basis of our reward. Far and away, we have received much more than we deserve. The Bible says that we deserve hell and that anything outside of that is pure grace. What’s even crazier is that God has not only let us out of hell for now, but that He has done so for all eternity through the blood of Jesus Christ. “Good for goodness sake” will never work and will never make us just before a holy God.” Third, Santa elevates the gifts of God over the giver. Santa is not the sovereign creator of all things. The function he plays in the lives of non Christians world-wide is that of gift-giver. You pay him his due, he gives you the goods. Sadly, this is how most in America treat God. We do stuff to get his stuff. But the highest good of the gospel is that we get God. Sin, at is root, is the preference of anything to God. We have exchanged the glory of the Giver for what He gives (Romans 1:18-32).

Santa preaches an anti-gospel message. Now, you may be saying, “If we avoid all of that, what is the problem with having some sort of Santa figure to entertain the kids and give them something to look forward to?” This question shows that we have a light view of sin, holiness and the glory of Christ. Far too often, we only operate with the categories of “sinful” and “good.” We think that if something is lawful then it is automatically profitable. Santa Claus celebrate may not be sin per se and therefore it is fine to do. But that is not what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:23:

[23] “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

(1 Corinthians 10:23 ESV)

The context is dealing with lawful practices in the Corinthian church. As Christians, we are free in many regards. We can drink. We can watch TV. Maybe we can teach our kids about Santa. But all of those things can cloud our vision of the God. They may be “ok” but will not serve to get our eyes off of ourselves and onto Jesus. Santa is actually more dangerous than TV watching or drinking. You can have a drink to the glory of God on Christmas Eve, but I am not so sure you can bake cookies for Santa in the same way.

This really gets down to the “why?” Why would you want to let Santa in your house? For all of the sophisticated answers, for most people, it really comes down to tradition. Our families have always done it this way. Our neighbors have always done it this way. In other words, we do Santa Claus just because. But this is a poor way to live the Christian life. We want to be making concerted effort to fight sin and produce sweet thoughts about the gospel of free grace.

Christ offers superior beauty. Leaving Satan out is not the pursuit of less joy but the radical pursuit of more joy. The heavenly hosts proclaimed this the night that Jesus, the eternal second person of the Trinity, was born in a lowly stable:

[14] “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14 ESV)

Christmas does not need Santa’s help. In all of our celebrations, this proclamation of the glory of God should be preeminent. Jesus has come! We see the perfect image of the Father, the One through whom all things were created, lying in a manger to grow up and fulfill the law on our behalf and die on a cross for our sins. God’s being known and and glorified works for our great joy. At Christmastime and every time, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. If you know Christ this season, let Santa go. Your time will be countercultural, but will give off a supernatural glow. Your salt with be saltier.

John the Baptist seemed to get it. When he saw Christ he said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Let’s follow suit. Go ahead, put up a tree, buy your family gifts. But open your Bible. Draw your eyes to God. Joy is here. As John Piper put it, “If you think Jesus is boring, you don’t know Him that well.”

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