Putting Santa in His Place

throne of lies
SPOILER ALERT!! This post is for adults only! Secrets will be exposed, so hide yo’ kids.A couple of weeks ago my wife and I attended a tacky Christmas party. Ugly sweaters abounded and there were even men in tights. Yes, tights. No, I’m not kidding (hide yo’ kids and hide yo’ wife). Christmas may never be the same, but that’s another story. Seeing that I’m usually accidentally tacky and not creatively tacky I just wore a t-shirt with a picture of Santa and the words, “Don’t stop believin’.” All of you who are Journey fans just went to a special place, didn’t you?It was all fun and games until a friend of mine stated her surprise that I, a Christian, would have Santa come to my house. My friend is sincere about her unbelief and I appreciate that we have been able to have real talks about faith over the years without it being disagreeable. This time, though, I was caught off-guard. I have known some Christian families who did not have anything to do with Santa Claus. I appreciate their sincerity and I respect their freedom to parent as they see fit. This was the first time, though, that I had ever been challenged by someone who is not a Christian on why a Christian would include Santa in their Christmas traditions.Circumstances prevented us from finishing our conversation, but my friend helped me to understand that people are really curious about faith and practice. The conversation also helped me to think about where or even if Santa belongs in our Christian Christmas tradition.I think Santa has a place, but we need to put him in the right place. After all, the legend of Santa Claus has its roots in the acts of a Christian–Saint Nicholas–who gave lavishly to people he found in need, especially children. So here are six key principles to remember as you consider what place Santa has in your family:

  1. Focus more on Jesus than on Santa. Jesus really is the reason for the season. Go to great lengths to help your kids understand that Jesus is the true gift of Christmas and with his coming, he brings the gift of salvation. In our home, the Nativity Scenes have more prominence than Santa.
  2. Fantasy is different from deception. I understand the argument: If kids find out that Santa isn’t real will they think the same about Jesus? The logic of that argument is faulty, though. Most people, as they mature, have very little trouble separating fact and fiction. Actually for children, stories and fantasies can help them learn about morality and virtue. J.R.R. Tolkien said, “Myth and fairy-story must, as all art, reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error).” I believe his point was that we can use fiction to help us understand key underlying truths using make-believe. The key is keeping the mystery alive without lying (see the next point)
  3. When your kids ask, tell the truth. The day will come when children begin to put the pieces together about the truth of Santa Claus on their own. When they ask you if Santa is real, you can answer that question with a question: What do you think? There’s that mystery idea from #2. As they develop, eventually they will understand the truth. Affirm them as they begin to realize the truth and take the opportunity to talk about Christ as the reality of Christmas.
  4. Respect those with a different viewpoint. Many Christians do not celebrate Santa. We should not discount these brothers and sisters as legalists if their decisions are made out of conviction and not obligation.
  5. Think it through. It is important for Christians to know why they do what they do so that they can explain to a watching world what makes Jesus so special. We should also know why we have Santa in our celebrations and how we help our families see the difference.
  6. But don’t over think it. There are enough big issues to stress over as parents. Let’s not let others’ opinions of us add a burden not worth bearing. Have fun! Decide what is best for your family based on biblical principles. Use traditions where possible to point people toward the gift of Jesus.

So enjoy Santa this Christmas, or don’t. Either way, put him in his place.

Should We Do Church Differently? Cultural Factors

Many commentators on culture agree that the United States is quickly moving into a post-Christendom context. Tim Chester and Steve Timmis observe that in a Christendom context, “the assumption is that Christianity should have privileged status in the cultural and political discourse of the nation…But the reality of Christendom is fading fast, overtaken by secularism and pluralism” (Everyday Church, 19). In other words, Christians are finding themselves more and more on the margins of society. While this is the context in which we find ourselves, the dominant models for church, evangelism, and mission are reflective of a Christendom mindset. Consequently, even the most contemporary reflections of these standard models struggle to make disciples.

The Separation Of Church And State
Photo Credit: Ian Sane via Compfight

In On the Verge, Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson posit that even the most progressive forms of church found in North America will likely be acceptable to—at best—40% of the population. This may be a generous number. “The brute fact,” say Hirsch and Ferguson, “is that most of the evangelical church leaders who will read [their book] will be white, suburban, and middle class, and the equally stark reality is that within decades, Anglo-Saxon Americans will be in the minority in the U.S.—yet our churches don’t seem to be responding to this reality” (27). We must begin to raise up leaders to go to the other 60%: those who will likely never be attracted to the church on the corner, no matter the dress code or music style. [Read more…]

Is Your Church a Culture Club?

Culture is something that Christians spend a lot of time fighting about. We use martial terms and speak of the “culture wars.” Believers are told to be “counter-cultural.” Typically, though, when Christians talk culture we are talking about “them.” We talk about “their” culture–meaning those outside the faith. Let’s think for a few minutes about “us” and “our” culture. That is, Christian culture.

 

Your church is a culture club. To some extent, all churches are. [Read more…]

What’s so important about culture?

For three years I lived in New Orleans. Now that’s a place that has a distinct culture! Monday in the Big Easy is wash day and with it comes red beans and rice. You don’t shop there; you “make groceries.” New Orleans is a city know for it’s food, music, history, and, of course, Mardi Gras. That’s culture! And while your community may not be as flamboyant as New Orleans, it has a culture, too. So does your home. So does your church. Culture is like air. When it’s taken away or changed, you notice. Culture is what is natural and normal in your environment. It is the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, architecture, habits, behaviors, and values that color the world around you. Culture dictates the way things are.

James Davison Hunter describes culture as “made up of the accumulation of values held by the majority of people and the choices made on the basis of those values” (To Change the World, Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 6). [Read more…]

Why you should read this blog

There are almost 165 Million blogs on the internet. Now I’ve added one more. So, why should you read this blog? Here are some possible reasons:

  1. You’re my wife or my mom. (Thanks, ladies!)
  2. You’re a friend (I owe you all lunch).
  3. You’re a student who may take a class I’m teaching (mentioning you read a prof’s blog is the 21st century equivalent to bringing him an apple). OR
  4. You’re interested in learning more about being a disciple who makes disciples.


I have decided to come out of a long hiatus from blogging because I believe God has given me some things to say that you need to hear (and hopefully you will want to hear). [Read more…]