As we enter the Christmas season, the inevitable question arises. What is the true meaning of Christmas? The very fact that we are asking that question, demonstrates the divergence of understanding of what the season is about. The world generically calls it the season of giving and references Santa (rather than Christ) as the the epitome of generosity. So how does the church reconcile these two divergent focuses of this season?
There are often 3 general responses of Christian families to this season.
1. Don’t celebrate Christmas at all: Historically, Christmas was a pagan holiday that was incorporated into Christendom culture as the Catholic church grew into pagan regions. Besides modern day Christmas celebrations have become so commercialised that there is no redeeming value in the ‘season’. Really we should be celebrating Christ’s birth, death and resurrection all year round.
2. Use the season to focus on Christ and downplay Santa. Pragmatically, recognise that our culture still has remnants of Christ mentioned in this season (hence the name Christ-mas), so let’s use this as a chance to spread the gospel. If we tell the story of Santa to our children, it is as a historical reference to St Nicholas (Old Saint Nick) who gave gifts to the poor.
3. Teach children that Santa Clause is real. The story of Santa is harmless fantasy, along side the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. At some point children will be able to distinguish that Jesus is real, but Santa and the other fantasies are false. But let’s not destroy childhood make believe.
While each of the above positions may be a matter of conscience, it is amazing how passionate God’s people get about this issue. I have my position, but I welcome the opportunity for you to express yours.