I’ll confess, my 5-year-old son, Josiah, knows all about “Santa Claus.” I wouldn’t say it’s a hallowed family tradition we’re passing on to him. He seems to already know the idea of an omnipresent fat man squeezing down every chimney in the world is a bit ridiculous. This time of year we talk of Santa with a playful wink and grin and he’s cognizant of the inherent silliness.
I’m not against the idea of upholding mystery and levity early in childhood. I wouldn’t be considered puritanical in my approach to Christmas trees and giving gifts. And in the midst of the festivity: My wife and I always try to stress to our children that the birth of God’s Son is the highest purpose of the season.
But the stark juxtaposition of Santa Claus and Jesus Christ has struck a deep chord with me lately. And it has caused me to take a more cautious approach to this jolly old saint as modern culture has rendered him.
Santa is dressed in a red suit bearing toy gifts for children.
Jesus is dressed in red from his own blood bearing up his own body as God’s gift to us.
Santa only gives good gifts to good kids
God only gives the perfect gift (His Son) to bad kids. Good kids are left clinging their own filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)
Santa makes obedience a legalistic requirement for his good favor.
God through Christ gives undeserved favor that spurns obedience.
This is where I have to be careful with the precious 5 year old soul God has entrusted to me.
We’re hardwired to expect the law out of people. Even our children. You do this right for me, you get this good thing in return. You only get what you’ve earned with your good work. It’s convenient (and unbiblical) for parents to use a mystical authority figure like Santa as leverage against a child. “You’re on the naughty list and the only hope in life for good stuff is behavior modification.” But this manipulation can only last for the season.
Santa’s legalistic demands virtually flip everything I want my son to know about the gospel of grace.
If I can be frank: Santa Claus, in some ways, is the Anti-Christ.
We’re hardwired to assume God holds the law over us. In Christ, He does not. The law rightly taught reveals our naughtiness (Romans 3:20). The gospel rightly taught heals and covers all that shame and guilt (Romans 8:3-4).
That’s the beauty of the Incarnate God with us in a dirty stable.
He comes to bring a good and perfect gift.
To bad folks like me.
And my little boy.
Jesus, and His Father, are the Anti Claus.