What would Santa do?
Ah, Santa. This ever-present symbol of the season is something of a problem for evangelicals. What are we going to do with him? Should we “take a stand” against this symbol of all that is wrong with our culture’s celebration of Christmas? Should we teach our children that there is no Santa Claus and then send them out as three-year-old missionaries to share that news with other preschoolers? That is a tactic bound to get happy feedback, right?
Should we just go along with the whole thing? Should we let our children take part in the celebrations and watch with joy as they get hyped up over the Christmas hysteria? Should we not worry about the inevitable day when they learn the whole thing was a joke? This was the path my parents took and, I must confess, it was my first major lesson on my own sinfulness. You see, I had figured out that there was no Santa but didn’t tell my parents until after Christmas because I feared that might mean that those “from Santa” presents would stop coming.
Some are choosing to celebrate the “real” Santa Claus, or Saint Nicolas of Myra, the 4th century bishop who seems to have been the root of the whole matter. As with all historical figures from the distant past, it is hard to separate the facts, legends and myths around this gentleman to let us see the real man but it is generally agreed that he was a godly man of great piety and zeal. He clearly had great concern to help the poor and oppressed, giving much, if not all he possessed, to those less fortunate.
Equally clear is that he was a fiery defender of the faith. At the Council of Nicaea he was so incensed over Arius’ presentation of a heretical view of Jesus that he is said to have socked Arius in the face. I suspect that those of us who choose the “real Santa Claus” view probably don’t encourage their kids to give those who differ with them a punch in the nose.
I am something of an agnostic on Santa Claus. I don’t know what the right thing to do is. But there is one question rolling around in my head. How would Saint Nicolas feel about what his image has become? Or, to put it another way, if he were to come back today “What would Santa do?” Is it possible that Saint Nicolas, the “real Santa”, would rather that we teach out kids to be a Santa Claus than to wait for one?