Rethinking Santa

With Christmas quickly approaching, several Ask Pastor John podcast listeners filled the mailbag with Santa-related questions. Corbin, a listener from Gainesville, Georgia, asked: “Pastor John, should parents allow their children to believe Santa Claus is bringing them gifts on Christmas?”

What follows is a transcript of the salient portions from Pastor John’s response.

The salvation of sinners through the death and resurrection of Jesus is the goal of Christmas.

  • Jesus came at Christmas to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).
  • Jesus came at Christmas to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).
  • Jesus came at Christmas to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
  • Jesus came at Christmas not to call the righteous, but sinners (Matthew 9:13).
  • Jesus came at Christmas to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).
  • Jesus came at Christmas that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death (Hebrews 2:14).

So the birth of the Son of God, the very God, very man, is simply stunning and glorious and infinitely serious, an overflow of the happy news. The angel called it “good news of great joy” — great joy, not small joy, not a little bit of joy, but great joy (Luke 2:10).

“If being Jesus-focused is a killjoy for your Christmas, you don’t know him well.”

It is mindboggling to me that any Christian would even contemplate such a trade, that we would divert attention away from the incarnation of the God of the universe into this world to save us and our children. Not only is Santa Claus not true — and Jesus is very truth himself — but compared to Jesus, Santa is simply pitiful, and our kids should be helped to see this.

Santa Claus offers only earthly things, nothing lasting, nothing eternal. Jesus offers eternal joy with the world thrown in — the fire engine is thrown in (1 Corinthians 3:21–23).

Santa Claus offers his ephemeral goodies only on the condition of good works: “He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake.” That is a pure works religion. And Jesus offers himself all the gifts freely, by grace, for faith.

Santa Claus is make-believe. Jesus is more real than the roof on your house.

Santa Claus only shows up once a year. Jesus promises, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). You say to your kid every night: “He is standing by your bed. He is with you when you get up in the morning. He is with you when you go to school today. If mommy and daddy die, he will be right there with you.” Santa doesn’t hold a candle to this flame, Jesus.

Santa Claus cannot solve our worst problem. Jesus did solve our worst problem: our sin and our alienation from God. Santa Claus can put some icing on the cake of the good life, but he cannot take a shattered life and rebuild it with hope forever. And our kids need to know that about Christmas.

Santa Claus is not relevant in many cultures of the world. Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords over all the peoples of the world.

Santa Claus will be forgotten some day and Jesus “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

“Out-rejoice the world, out-give the world, out-decorate the world, and let it all point to Jesus.”

So there is no contest here. I cannot see why a parent, if they know and love Jesus, if they have found Jesus to be the greatest treasure in the world, why they would bring Jesus out of the celebration and Santa into the celebration at all — I mean, he is just irrelevant. He has nothing to do with it. Zero.

So my counsel is to give all your efforts to making your children as happy as they can possibly be with every kind of surprise that is rooted in the true meaning of Christmas. Let your decorations point to Jesus. Let your food point to Jesus. Let your games point to Jesus. Let your singing point to Jesus. Out-rejoice the world, out-give the world, out-decorate the world, and let it all point to Jesus.

If being Jesus-focused is a killjoy for your Christmas, you don’t know him well.