It’s the most wonderful time of the year…filled with decorations, cookies, presents, music, and all the Christmas cheer. As a Christian dad who is trying to lead my family well through the holiday season, I am trying to help my children think rightly about Christmas.
Enter Santa Claus.
My soon to be 3-year-olds hear songs about Santa, watch Christmas movies with appearances by the big man, and see him at the mall. So what do we do with Santa Claus? Embrace him fully, reject him totally, or find a happy medium? That’s a question that Christian parents seem to be asking this time of the year. To some, it seems that the modern Santa Claus (much different from Saint Nicholas of church history) represents the consumerist and materialistic problems that plague the Christmas season and holiday. The most wonderful time of the year can easily become the most stressful time as desires become demands and take the throne of our hearts.
James, writing to believers, asks a pointed question to them about the origin of their sin:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (4:1-3).
James, why is our culture so materialistic? Why do my children have a Christmas list a mile long? Why do I have a Christmas list a mile long? James seems to be saying that our hearts are the source of our competing desires, our envy and covetousness. Ouch! I thought it was Santa’s fault, not my own heart’s sin struggle.
Christmas is a season where we celebrate the incarnation of our Savior, which is “good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2: 10b-11). Jesus came to live and walk among us. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus came to save us and to give us a new heart. And he left the Holy Spirit with us to root out the sin that so easily entangles, and to help us wage war against the remaining sin that finds its home deep within. The gospel is our only hope in fighting discontentment, materialism, selfishness, enviousness, and all the other sins that grow so freely around the Christmas time.
As a church, we have been studying the Treasure Principle together. Randy Alcorn has a helpful section “Changing Christmas” found on pages 386-387 in his larger work on the subject, Money, Possessions, and Eternity. Here are his remarks:
Can we change the pattern of materialism in our homes? Certainly. Take Christmas, for example. We can buy far less. We can hand make presents, set a budget, and buy presents in advance to avoid the unnerving jostling through stores. Any change is good if it helps us to focus on Christ rather than ourselves. We can visit shut-ins or take food to the needy – to focus on giving rather than receiving….But even if you still exchange presents, you can make Christmas different. Don’t be victimized by the world’s materialism. Worship Christ in simplicity.
This Christmas, maybe we should be less worried about jolly ole Saint Nick lurking in the chimney and more concerned with the war within our soul. Let’s help one another find the joy in Christmas – that One freely gave his all for us. In turn, let’s model for ourselves, our families, and this world what Christmas is really about.