How many of you remember the Christmas song, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town? Have you ever sat down and thought about some of those lyrics? “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.” Those are some creepy lyrics! A mystical person is constantly watching us, yet only comes to see us once a year. And what we get is based on whether we have been good or bad. By the way, who’s definition of good and bad is being used? It is “Santa’s” definition. Yet, that definition is very fluid isn’t it, because each “Santa” defines good and bad differently. Not only is it a little unsettling, it also teaches children a wrong theology. There is someone who knows everything about us, and He is constantly watching over His creation. However, God is not doing it to decide whether or not we deserve good or bad; but rather He is watching over us because of His love for us. God’s definition of right and wrong never changes, because He never changes. He knows that we are bad, all of us (see Rom.. 3:10-12). Yet, listen to what Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:12, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are opened to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Peter is calling on the Christians to live properly, in a way that glorifies God. Peter here is quoting from Psalm 34:12-16. He is reminding them of the several important truths. First, God is omnipresent. There is not a place that God isn’t. Second, God is omniscient, that is He is all-knowing. Nothing and no one escapes His eyes. However, God knows more than just what we do, He sees the thoughts and intents of our heart the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 4:12. Next, we see that God delights in His children. Not only is He watching over us, He also delights in answering our prayers. Of course this means that we are praying according to God’s will, and not just praying about things that we want that will not glorify Him. Next, it also shows us that God hates evil. He has a clearly defined standard of right and wrong. Wrong is wrong no matter who commits it. If we are living in sin, the blessings of communion and answered prayers will not be experienced in our lives. This is why we must take sin seriously. Not only does it invite the judgment of God into our lives or the discipline of God, but worse, it breaks our fellowship with God. The fear of the Lord isn’t fearing that God is sitting in heaven just waiting to strike us down when we sin. The fear of the Lord is being afraid of doing anything that would cause God to take His hand of blessing off our life.
I want to address the bad theology I mentioned earlier. It is not my intention to shame anyone for teaching their children about Santa Claus or anything of that nature. It is my intention however to call to our minds that everything we say and do teaches our children, and influences them either closer to God or away from God. The idea of Santa is that he is watching all the children of the world, and if they are good he will bring them presents; however, if they are bad, they will get coal in their stocking. This is teaching our children a works based salvation. They have to “do good” in order to receive blessings or in the case of Christmas, gifts. If they don’t “do good”, then they won’t receive good things. Here is another aspect of the bad theology, it teaches that our love is conditional for our children. Again, if they are good, they receive presents. If they are bad, they get coal. I will be the first to say, I have never heard of parents giving their children coal for Christmas. If that was a real thing, I assure you, I deserved coal! Even though the children don’t know that their parents are Santa, they have the message reinforced that they must be good in order to get good things. Again, I have never heard of parents giving their children coal for Christmas which actually leads to another aspect of bad theology. We are teaching our children to do good in order to receive something, not to do good because they love and know it is the right thing to do. Finally, it sets up this us vs. them mentality or that “Santa” is a respecter of persons. What I mean is that some children get presents, and others don’t. Think of all the children who are homeless or are in foster care right now. Think of the children whose parents have been laid off, and can’t afford to give their children Christmas presents. Yes, there are many organizations who help with this, but not every child gets a Christmas present. You reinforce this thought, especially to those in group homes or foster care, that they have been “bad.” Why else wouldn’t they get a present? Clearly, it’s not these children’s fault, but these are the messages that we reinforce. The reason I write about this a little here is because when children grow up they can transfer the thoughts they had about “Santa” to God. They can believe that God is just like “Santa.” I know this to be the case, because theology is caught more than it is taught. In other words, what our children see in us as parents will largely influence how they look at the world, and interpret events that happen in the world.
I’m not trying to say that if you do the Santa thing in your home you are a bad parent. For the record, I grew up with Santa and the Easter Bunny. I write out of concern for the coming generations. I am the father of four incredible children. Two of them are teenagers now. That means I only have a few more years with them, before they will be moving out as an adult and moving on with their life. I want to make sure that whatever time God gives me with them, I teach them rightly about Him, because that will not only be good for them now, but also for their eternity. If we are going to teach our children about an omniscient, omnipresent person, let’s teach them about God!
By His grace and for His glory,