As a first-time parent, I’m having to make a lot of decisions about leading my household. My eyes have been opened to a lot more in the last year, and I think about the long-term effects of parenting practices. Some of those parenting practices involve how my wife and I choose to celebrate Christmas in our home. Do we allow our children to participate in things like believing in Santa Clause or having an Elf on a Shelf? My wife and I have made the decision that we will not promote a belief in Santa or have an Elf on a Shelf.
I won’t get into the Elf on the Shelf, as my reasonings for not promoting that newer tradition stem from my reasonings for not encouraging my children to believe in Santa Clause which I will discuss in this article. I believe these traditions seem harmless but are dangerous long-term for children. In addition to being a parent, I serve as a youth minister and know that there is way too much at stake in the lives of our children with so many things competing for their attention and affections for us as parents to lay an unsure foundation in their earliest years.
“He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake…”
Those lyrics sound harmless and we hear them every Christmas. But do we ever stop to think about what that song is saying? Do we really realize what it is teaching our kids? The song is giving God’s attributes to Santa Clause (a made-up children’s fantasy). Those lyrics suggest that Santa is omnipresent (everywhere at all times) and omniscient (all-knowing). Because Santa is said to be everywhere at all times and knows everything, children should be good, even when no one else is looking, so that they can receive everything they put on their Christmas list.
The danger in teaching children these attributes of Santa Clause comes when they realize that Santa isn’t real. Then, the parent(s) lose credibility with their child. The child begins to wonder what else has mom and dad told me that isn’t true in order to make me behave? And that’s where the real questioning begins. This leads to children in their teenage years and beyond having difficulty believing in the God of the Bible, who is truly omnipresent and omniscient. They have trouble believing that Jesus is real. They have trouble believing that Jesus was born of a virgin, was crucified, resurrected, and ascended. Instead, they often times believe Jesus is someone like Santa Clause that is made up by parents, pastors, and Sunday School Teachers in order to keep them from doing drugs, having sex outside of marriage, and participating in all the other “fun” things “normal” teenagers are doing.
When it comes to God’s attributes, we should not give them to made up things. To do so is idolatry. Also, we should never seek to place doubt in our children’s minds as to whether we are being truthful with them or not. This practice causes children to lose respect for parents. That is huge because the most influential people in a child’s life are his or her mom and dad. As parents, we help shape our children’s beliefs. May we seek to lead them to faith in Jesus Christ through our uncompromising stance in the gospel message of undeserved grace through faith in Jesus Christ. May Christmas always be a celebration of God giving us Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life, a gift none of us deserve.