Christmas as a child was a day that I spent the year waiting for. It was even better than my birthday because everyone was celebrating. There was good food the whole day instead of just at dinner. There was always something exciting to do – opening stockings; unwrapping a new outfit under the tree; going to church, singing carols and colouring in with the other children; nibbling mince pies and opening presents while listening to Amy Grant’s Christmas album; eating a small but yummy lunch; watching our new videos (we both got a new one each year) and then gorging ourselves on a delicious Christmas dinner. Not everyone was as invested in activities on your birthday. And, I’m a gifts person so I started buying or making presents in July – no joke!
Each year, I could never sleep. Christmas Eve was a drag because we would wait alllll day to put out presents! Then, after singing carols by the twinkling lights of the tree, my mom would hand us our oversized stockings (which were filled with objects such as boxes of tissues in later years to take up space) and we’d leave a plate of mince pies and a glass of Coke behind us near the fireplace for Father Christmas. I remember watching the hours tick over through the night. One year, I think I was awake from 1am until 4am, only to wake again an hour later to open our stockings.
The thought of Father Christmas arriving on his sleigh and coming into my room to stuff my stocking with Quality Streets, new toiletries that I didn’t have to share with my sister, various toys, my favourite magazines and balloons for me to kick and hear an exciting crinkle and crunch in the dark as the presents stuck out thrilled me beyond words. The magic of it all was too much to sleep!
And, when I was four, someone told me that he was a farce. And I was absolutely gutted! When my mom confirmed my fears when I asked her, I nevertheless pretended each subsequent year because the magic was too exciting to give up. Maybe, just maybe, if I pretended hard enough, he wouldn’t be pretend after all!
This year, I faced Father Christmas square on. My daughter was now old enough to understand the concept of a magical man filling her stocking with gifts after having a well-deserved snack of mince pies and Coke. But, I must say, I hesitated. I can’t so much as breathe a lie. Not even a tiny one. My conscience plagues me. And I wondered how I could tiptoe my way past lying to her. But this year, for the first time, something else bugged me more.
I was suddenly conscious that everything revolved around Father Christmas. It was all fun and games when I was growing up. And, secretly, I knew that even when we were asked what the best part of Christmas was, I said Jesus but the presents were what filled me with joy.
As a mom, I’ve done a few things to try and make the birth of Jesus the focus of our Christmas such as a nativity set advent calendar, advent candles and nativity storybooks.
This past Christmas, I’ve been acutely aware of how much Christmas has become about everything but Jesus. I mean, I always knew that. But it’s almost as if Christians give a cursory nod at the nativity set and then get swept up in all the secular Christmas cheer. And for the first time, the hollow, jazzy Christmas songs made me feel empty and not excited. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to celebrate Christmas. But I suddenly had to seriously question whether my nostalgia was more important than setting an example to my girls.
I felt guilty for not splurging and making Christmas as magical as it was for me. I felt an obligation to allow them the magic of Father Christmas. But then I had to do some introspection to figure out what my priorities really were.
I really wanted to do Father Christmas! Growing up, Father Christmas only brought the presents in our stockings – the rest under the tree were from my parents. (And rightly so – we needed to be thankful to the people who had spoilt us! I would have done the same thing.)
But, after questioning some of my friends to see what they did, a podcast I received in response cleared my head of my whimsical ideas.
It basically spoke about how Father Christmas had taken the place of Jesus. Sure, I could understand that kids anticipated the gifts in printed wrapping paper more than they celebrated the gift of a Saviour wrapped in swaddling cloths. But, the podcast my friend sent me said more than that.
Not only did the focus shift from Christ to Claus. Not only did his gifts “trump” God’s gift – they almost replaced them.
And “He sees you when you’re sleeping; he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good…” are also true of Jesus. Some sound biblical truths have been flippantly applied to an imaginary man in a red suit. So, rather than joyfully living in thankful worship to the God who humbled Himself to human form, no less, a baby, children spend the year under the threat of trying to please a man in the North Pole in order to earn their gifts. Not only can God see you, but so can Father Christmas. Rather than the nativity story being out primary focus, stockings adorn the central point of our living spaces in anticipation of the coming arrival of Father Christmas. The nativity set is placed in some obscure corner in the room and, likewise, in Christian and non-Christian homes alike, Christ is placed in some obscure corner of our Xmas-filled minds.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe Santa Claus is evil; that in every home, he is a replacement for Jesus. There is also an argument that if we tell our kids about Santa and Jesus that when they find out one is a myth, they may believe the same about the other. From personal experience, I don’t buy that argument. All I’m saying is that, for the first time, I’ve done some serious introspection. “Jesus” as we know, is the right answer but do we really believe that in our hearts? What message are our children getting from the way we celebrate Christmas? What emphasis is on the Gospel and what emphasis is on Father Christmas? Are they both able to see us all the time and know our deeds, words and thoughts intimately?
What we prioritise in action is what our children will learn to prioritise. We can preach all we want and ram the Gospel down their throats all season long. But, in the way we act, we could give a very different message.
I am still not sure what we’re going to do come Christmas 2020. I know what I’m leaning towards. And should my daughter initiate the magical idea and we decide to play along, it will be very much a “by-the-way”.
Come Christmas 2020, will the Claus Man be the gift-giver? Or will the Cross Man be the focus of the gift-giving of Christmas time? Will He be the reason we leave Christ in Christmas? Will He be the drive of the Christmas celebrations? Or will the Claus man in the sleigh be the driving force of all the Christmas cheer?
These are just some Christmas musings…
Leaving this here…
Photo Credit: @cottonbroTags: Christmas, claus, cross, father christmas, Jesus, nativity, presents, santa, santa claus, Saviour, sleigh