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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Santa vs Jesus

"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.' 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

'Glory to God in the highest heaven,

    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!'”
Luke 2:10-14

I have been struggling with this since my first little monkey was born.  For some Christians, this poses a dilemma - me included.  As someone who wants my child to know what Christmas is really about, bringing up Santa is hard...because he can overshadow Jesus in a blink of an eye.  So, what to do?  My opinion follows and I'd love to hear yours...but please don't disparage anyone else's opinion :)

I never brought up Santa in front of my kids when they were little.  My little boy (the oldest) heard about Santa for the first time when he was in his Christian 3 year old prek class.  He didn't really seem to care. The teacher even went as far as to send a little letter to each child from Santa, which was a very sweet letter and I should've been happy with it...but I wasn't.  And I didn't even read it to my child.  Why?  Good question.  I think it was because I didn't want him to get excited about Santa and create an atmosphere of anticipation of him coming...why? Well, because I wanted him to have that attitude about Jesus.  Maybe that's asking too much, but that's what I wanted (and still want).

I have a Christian friend who is also a mother of young children and she made a good point.  Children hear a lot about Santa and Jesus at Christmas - both are abstract and live somewhere abstract.  We can't see them - except in pictures - you pray to one, write letters to the other.  To children, the two aren't very when they eventually find out that Santa isn't real...where does that leave Jesus?  Will He seem less real as well?  Possibly - He'll seem more as a mythical, magical type character than someone who actually lived and died for us.  I don't want that.

35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' "
Acts 20:35  

I realize Santa is a harmless, fictional character that creates magic in the lives of children and makes Christmas eve and Christmas morning so amazing.  I just wish we could create that type of amazement with just Jesus.  Doesn't that sound sad?  Just Jesus.  Like Jesus isn't enough?  Jesus is more than enough - and we have to figure out how to make it that way.  I'm not saying do away with gifts :)  The Bible tells us over and over to give to others, we use the mantra at Christmas - "It's better to give than to receive".  It's a wonderful concept to teach children - to use the whole season as a teaching tool of how to give to others...including those less fortunate, hurting and sad.

37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[g] you did it to me.’ 
Matthew 25:37-40

I don't want to do away with gifts and living in Peru helped me see that as well.  Christmas, for my husband growing up in Peru, was church and family.  They spend Christmas eve at the church with their families and at midnight have paneton and hot chocolate.  They also have a big meal for Noche buena (Christmas Eve).  Its a beautiful tradition.  On Christmas day, they just hang out - no gifts, no big meals - just time together. stress ;)  I like the idea, but I think part of Christmas is helping those that are less fortunate and giving to others to show your love for them.  That doesn't mean buying expensive things - you can even make stuff, create a card, draw a picture...whatever.  Just something to show you care.  But I think we can overdo it.  I know I have...

One positive of the Peruvian tradition is that there is no confusion of what Christmas is all about.  For us to do that here, we are going to have to work harder and be more creative.  I don't stress Santa, I don't bring him up, I don't label any gifts from Santa, we don't write letters to Santa and I have never told my children that he exists.  We've never even visited him in the mall.  They have asked about his existence - and I always throw it back to them - "What do you think?"  In contrast, I've also never told them that he doesn't exist...why?  I don't know.  I guess I like the magic a little as well...or maybe I don't want my kids to be the ones to tell all the other kids that he doesn't exist!  I would feel horrible.  I simply just don't bring him up.

So how can we make sure that Jesus is the center of this month and not Santa?  A few ideas that we do and/or I have seen done or things I would like to do...

--make your advent calendar religious - advent calendars are awesome.  It creates an air of anticipation that we all enjoy.  Just make it religious.  I have one from when I was little and each day is another animal or person or thing from the manger scene.  It sparks a conversation of where and how Jesus was born.

--limit your presents-  if you don't want Christmas to be all about Santa and gifts, then don't overdo it.  One thing I heard and have stuck with is - you get three gifts on Christmas just like baby Jesus.  Since I don't label any gifts (I just put their names on the gifts, I don't even put a "from") they literally have just 3 gifts.  Think that sounds like plenty? - you'd be surprised :)  It's so hard to not go over that.  I do give them stockings but have vowed to not put anything in them this year that either won't be eaten or played with later on.

--Find a nice child friendly advent devotional.  Our family does a devotional every morning before we all head our separate ways - we do it over breakfast.  It's not always meaningful, sometimes it's rather quick, but it's done every morning and I love that the children will call us on it if we forget :)  I found a free app on my iphone that is an advent calendar and each day has a short bible story (with pictures).  We did it today for the first time and it was pretty neat.  It was about the prophet Isaiah and how he told everyone about Jesus coming.

--Make sure and take advantage of any activities for children at your church - you know those are Jesus centered :)

--There is a neat tradition circling pinterest to wrap 25 christmas books and let the children open one per day until Christmas.  We did this last year and the kids really liked it - and today they were very excited to unwrap the first one :)  But I try and make sure that every other night (or at least every third night) the book is about Jesus or at least something that alludes to the true meaning of Christmas.  If you need some ideas go here.

--Get involved in an organization or church activity that feeds or clothes the homeless or sick, goes caroling at a nursing home, buys gifts for kids in need (just make sure it's legit), rings the salvation army bell (so fun with kids :) or takes homemade gifts to shut ins or people/children in the hospital (like advent angels).  Looking for something on Christmas Day?  Our church has a few volunteers that want to cook Christmas breakfast for the homeless in the area and people who may be alone this Christmas.  They would love help!  Just make sure and talk to your children about why...why are we helping people?  Why is this important?  What does Jesus say about helping others? etc

-- Go to or participate in a Live Nativity (shouldn't be any Santa's there ;)  Sometimes churches even tell the story while you watch.

--If your church has a Christmas program, then make sure your child has a part!

--Don't just watch the traditional Christmas movies - try some of the religious ones as well.  A few that we will be showing at our church on the big screen in the next few weeks - The Night Before Christmas - A Mouse's Tale and Hermie and Wormie's Fruitcake Christmas.  The mouse movie, if you haven't seen it, is about two mice who climb a Christmas tree to find out what Christmas is - some answers they get on their journey - singing, food, dancing, presents - but, to my surprise, the angel at the top directs them to the manger scene while she sings Silent Night.  Very nice.  Hermie and Wormie are a creation of Max Lucado and those are all very cute :)  Of course, I can't leave off Charlie Brown's Christmas - the best Christmas movie ever!  A national treasure...and it's religious.  Awesome :)

I'm not saying that we should do away with Santa and I'm not saying he's bad...I'm not an extremist who is anti-Santa and thinks Santa is "Satan" with a few letters out of place (SNL flashback :)  I just want to make sure, that in my house, Jesus is said more than Santa, that the Christmas story is read more than the Night Before Christmas and that Jesus is "real" to my children and not abstract. I don't want Jesus to be the background...I want my kids to answer the question - "What is Christmas all about?" with "Jesus' birth".  If you have more ideas on how to help me do this - I would love to hear them!!

God Bless and Merry Christmas...

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