First, I would like to thank the ETBU Center for Excellence in Christian Scholarship for allowing me to take part in blogging this semester. It has been an excellent experience and I hope that this particular project continues long-enough that I eventually have another shot at it. In particular, I’d like to thank Elizabeth Ponder for keeping us all in-line.
For weeks I had roughly sketched out that this final week I would write about missed opportunities and unanswered prayers, noting ETBU’s focus verse for this year (Proverbs 3:5-6). I was going to talk about several instances of my life in which I had reeeeeeally wanted something and it did not work out, but in the end it was a blessing: jobs I didn’t get that were downsized within the year, opportunities that I was sure were “the big break” that didn’t happen but were replaced by something better, relationships that (thankfully) did not pan out…
But something else is weighing on me: “My trouble is Christmas.”
“You know, Santa Claus and ho-ho-ho.”
***Disclaimer: If you are under the age of 10 or so, there is a MAJOR spoiler in today’s post so you probably won’t want to read it.***
Reader, I have questions you need to consider:
What are you going to tell (or what do or did you tell) your kids about Santa Claus? How will/do/did you answer these questions?
- Who is he?
- What does he do? How does he get into the house?
- Is he white or black or Hispanic or what?
- (At the mall) “Mommy/Daddy, is that the real Santa?”
- What about Rudolph, Frosty, Jack Frost and all of the other peripheral characters?
“WHAT KIND OF CHRISTMAS MUSIC IS THAT?!”
So anyways, I attended the Texas Lions Camp in Kerrville, TX several summers as a pre-teen and teenage Type I diabetic. The first couple of times I attended, the camp was long-enough that it ran through Sundays, and I remember one Sunday in particular that has stuck with me a long time.
There was an optional “Sunday service” I attended, and even as a youth I recognized that something was wrong about it. It was like expecting Dr. Pepper and getting watered down Mr. Pibb. There was no specific talk of God, no prayers (just something like “silent reflection”), and no songs…except one. The only reason I stayed for the entire service was that on the program, for some odd reason, there was Joy to the World. I thought, “how ridiculous…a Christmas song in July. But at least it is Christian.” We got to that point, and with all of my pent up frustration, as soon as I started loudly blurting “JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD IS…”
“JEREMIAH WAS A BULLFROG! HE WAS A GOOD FRIEND OF MINE!”
That’s right…it wasn’t “Christmas song” Joy to the World blaring loudly through the speakers, it was Three Dog Night’s Joy to the World (I don’t remember having ever heard that song before in my life to that point, but I probably had).
In hindsight, adult me knows that the Texas Lions Camp could not quite offer a “Christian worship service”, but why fake one if it isn’t going to be the real thing? I mean, good grief! The song talks about drinking wine and “making sweet love to you”. Many of us hadn’t hit puberty yet, so what were we meant to be worshipping?! (And furthermore, who thought “this is a great idea!”)
Despite probably being well-intentioned, the “Sunday Service” did nothing to center worship on God. Instead, it distracted from those things that were important.
(I don’t recall there ever being another “Sunday Service” in my subsequent years at the camp, but that might be because the camps shortened to not overlap on Sundays, they stopped doing them, or I simply repressed ever seeing that option offered again.)
“All I want is what I… I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.”
I take those earlier questions about Santa Claus and use them in my M.Ed. coaching class. I present them as if I am asking out of context for student opinions on how I should proceed with my own kids, and then I move on to a thorough discussion of what sorts of ethical restraints they might have in Pee-Wee coaching versus professional coaching. This leads to a discussion on moral relativism versus moral absolutism (“Why do you have significant differences between what you think is acceptable for Pee-Wee versus pros?”). Then I ask these two questions:
Question #1: Was Robin Hood a good guy or a bad guy? Was he right or wrong?
(and then I nail them with the next transition…)
Question #2: Why is OK to lie to your kids about Santa Claus? How can you then expect them to believe some of the more-important things you say?
Now to you, the reader…why DO we lie to kids about Santa Claus? That is what we do. Really, think about it. What good reason is there to lie to your kids about the existence of Santa Claus? We expect kids to believe that a red-coated fat man at the North Pole delivers toys to children around the world in one night on a sleigh pulled by magical reindeer, and that’s before you get into the entire backstory of Frosty the Snowman, Jack Frost, Elf on a Shelf, Yukon Cornelius, the Island of Misfit Toys, and the whole variety of other characters that have been somehow equated with a Christmas story. Eventually, they find out it isn’t true and there is a level of trust that is violated. “But Will, it is innocent and there is no harm done.” Is that true?
“Let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big eastern syndicate, you know.”
Now before you label me a Grinch, I recognize that my complaint isn’t a new one. The entire point of the original Charlie Brown Christmas special was that commercialism and secularism should not take the focus away from Jesus on Christmas, and that show was released in 1965 (nearly fifty full year ago!). That said, I wonder how Charles Shultz would feel about this sort of thing happening with his creations?
In fairness, my kids currently do receive one gift from Santa each year, if for no other thing than them having an answer when someone asks “what did Santa Claus bring you?” This concession was the result of much deliberation in my household. I believe that we should give each other gifts, as a commemoration of the gifts the wise men are said to have given baby Jesus. However, I also believe that we should not extort behavior from our kids (by proxy of a fictional character) by saying things like: “you might get that toy, but you’ll have to hope Santa thinks you are a good-enough boy/girl to deserve it.” It should be emphasized that gifts are given at Christmas out of love to commemorate the birth of Christ. Period.
“What kind of a tree is that?”
This is for sell at our local “big box” store: star and crescent tree toppers.
I consulted several individuals much-more qualified than me to speak to this, and there was no consensus on the intention, but all agreed that the star and crescent is most-definitely a non-Christian religious symbol. Some I consulted noted that people buying it might not be aware of what it represents to certain groups, and this is probably the truth. I just want to point out that this is a product that exists. Is Christmas now so secular of a holiday now that families with those belief systems do not feel threatened celebrating it in their households? I doubt that, but one must admit that this could be evidence to the contrary. At the minimum, this may show the cultural ignorance of those that purchase the tree topper, unaware of its meaning to billions of people.
“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?
When we lie to our kids about this entire fantastical “Christmas character” alternate universe, they will eventually find out it isn’t true. If we as parents and as society are willing to lie to our children about that, should it surprise us that when they are older they don’t believe us when we tell them that 2000 years ago, a baby was born in a manger under fantastical circumstances, that the carpenter’s son went on to perform supernatural miracles, that was He was the Son of God, that He died for our sins, and that He rose from the dead on the third day? Because really, “That’s what Christmas is all about.”
Luke 2: 8-14
8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field , keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo , the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid . 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold , I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes , lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying , 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Thank you for reading this semester.