the santa clause

16 12 2010

Father Christmas came to our church toddler group. At least, one of our wonderful ladies in her 80’s dressed up very convincingly! It was fun, the children (and adults) loved it. But how thin the ice we skate on, how thin the line between truth & lies, between story &  myth… How thin the line between harmless fun stories and giving confusing mixed messages to everyone… How thin the line we walk as followers of Jesus as we ponder How To Do Christmas About Jesus Without Ignoring Father Christmas, telling the revelation of God through JC without violating the unwritten cultural Santa clause and spilling the revelation that FC is a myth, a story, a made-up nonsense.

Should we try to shoehorn Jesus in to the event; or have Jesus giving out presents? Or ban Father Christmas? Some would, probably Christians who would ban any sort of fun. So what then?

father son christmas

I was thinking about how Jesus would handle it. He was well known for taking themes and ideas from his culture and transforming them, changing them. Ritual cup-cleaning became cleaning our hearts. Cup cleaning wasn’t in itself bad.  Fishing for fish became fishing for people. Fishing wasn’t in itself bad. Wealth became not a sign of blessing to hoard but an opportunity to give. Wealth wasn’t in itself bad.  Paul took the idea of an unknown god and made him known. Way back in the Old Testament, prophets challenged the idea of trusting fallic fertility poles for crop-growth to instead trusting the creator god; they challenged sacrifice for self-interest or ritual’s sake to instead  sacrifice as part of worship of the living god.

Our faith has always taken cultural norms and ideas and turned them into a way of talking about God, Yahweh, Jesus. So back to Father Christmas…

Maybe Jesus would say that Father Christmas sounds good, but how Jesus is even better. Maybe he would say Father Christmas is based on Santa Claus who is based on St Niklaus, a Turkish bishop who left presents for the poor so they could enjoy Christmas,; and that he (Jesus) is even more generous than that. Maybe he would say Father Christmas just brings pieces of stuff that don’t last, but he brings peace in the heart that lasts forever. Maybe he would say that Father Christmas sounds like a parental bribery method to reward or punish children for behaviour based on old religion, whereas he is full of grace and his foremost concern is not our behaviour, but our hearts. He gives us grace, whether we are good or not, because none of us deserve presents. Or his presence. Maybe he would say that central heating and subsequent lack of chimney’s put an end to the Santa’s impossible deeds but all manner of cultural and technological shifts cannot put an end to Jesus’ impossible deeds.

Maybe he would invite us to take all that is good about Father Christmas and increase it, build on it, grow it.

Maybe he would find a way to tell the Christmas story, including the Santa Claus clause, and it would work.

Maybe he would even dress up and make the children laugh.

Now there’s a thought.

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12 responses

17 12 2010
fran

amazing to think that Jesus could wrap up Father Christmas and say Hey there my people, i am bigger, bolder, redder, and cheekier than him!

18 12 2010
c2drl

The trouble is that adults today have an uncrossable line between ‘fact’ and ‘myth’ and so much of the Christmas story doesn’t sit comfortably on either side of the line. Happily children don’t have these hang-ups. they move easily from reality to myth and back again in a single play session. They can suspend judgement and listen to the ‘truth’ underlying the story.

To understand the Christmas message we have to be like children and stop being conservatives or liberals or fundamentalists. I don’t know how Jesus would present the story today, but I absolutely confident it would hold our attention, challenge our concepts of God, leave us changed people and be nothing like anything we have heard before. I wish I could be there and hear it.

Oh, and the Church leaders would reject it as theologically unsound, the women would reject it as sexist …..

18 12 2010
faith rowbury

Jesus is Christmas, Father Christmas and our other traditions make it ‘magical’, help to spread love and cheer and i think Jesus loves it.

The true meaning of Christmas is Jesus and that is ‘Truth’, the ‘fantasy’ of our traditions and make believe is just that; and its fun and adds sparkle to a very very special day. If it was all taken away and Christmas was stripped bare,with no frills and no sparkle I wonder if as much love, compassion and joy would be spread about?and that is why i believe Jesus loves us celebrating his birth and some of the extras that go with it.

I just pray that people understand and come to love the reason why we are celebrating Christmas and if and when they do, then they will realise that our traditions and fun are an enrichment to a very special day.

The pressure of the Christmas festivities can on the other hand, can make people feel pressurised into spending money they can’t really afford, and putting on a false festive cheer, and I seem to find the general consensus is that people feel they shouldn’t be on there own at Christmas;and I believe that Jesus would like us to realise that we are not in competition with each other and that we are never alone, he is with us and once people reach for his love he will live with them in their heart and mind and they will find that the Festive season and life will have a true meaning and purpose.

Hallelujah – praise the Lord x x

18 12 2010
Will Cookson

Kevin,
Why not subvert back?
At our mother and toddler group we use the Wise Men/ Magi. Perfect for this sort of thing. Presents are given out and you tell the Christmas story without other stuff getting in the way.

18 12 2010
Edge

What do you mean Father Christmas is a made up nonsense? Rubbish! He is alive and real. I saw him popping into Sainsbury’s only this afternoon.

19 12 2010
c2drl

I think edge is on to something. I saw Father Christmas in Waitrose at about the same time. Do you suppose he is omnipresent or just a christmas present?

19 12 2010
Anonymous

I was going to attempt a reply to this, but actually, it’s just too BIG to reply to!!!

I was going to say what I thought Jesus would think, but actually, having typed and deleted countless things, I conclude that I have NO IDEA what he may think or feel…

If I was saviour of the world, I might be a little sad that Christmas wasn’t a bit more about me… but then, I’m not and he is and who knows…

I hope that he laughs with the children who experience the joy of Christmas, and weeps with the ones who don’t.
That’s kind of how I imagine it…

… but again… I just don’t know.

20 12 2010
Kevin

Thanks for all these comments people – wide-ranging and thought-provoking, just what I am hoping for and once again you do not disappoint. Thank you 🙂

1 12 2011
charlotte

I stumbled across this blog and found this in particular excellent and though provoking. I have a 6 and a 2 year old and in our last church and church school noone did FC so my eldest knows he is not real… I told her about St Niklaus and how we celebrate God’s love by giving to others and people dress up and we prentend that St Niklaus can fly about on his sleigh. But we have moved and here EVERYONE does FC and my 6 yo so wants to believe in the magic and is getting quite stressed about it, trying to cnovince herself he is real when she really knows he isn’t.

I have said that we can go on pretending it’s real, like a make believe game and then if it tunrs out he is real after all it won;t matter… I even went so far as to say who knows, maybe God sometimes send angels to drop poor people gifts… wo which she said, ‘perhaps God is really Father Christmas’ Oh wise little girl!

1 12 2011
Kevin

Thanks Charlotte, great to hear from you to and remind me about this post one year on!

1 12 2011
charlotte

Sorry about the typos, typing too fast again!

1 12 2011
Jon Kuhrt

thanks Kev – very helpful. Seeing as I AM Santa at my kids’
school next week i could do with some of this thinking!

its my second year doing it and last year I tried to inject something about generosity and not arguing with your brother/sisters and being grateful and this seemd to go down well (with the parents) but I might expand on this a bit this year and explain more about why people celebrate St Nicholas and crow bar some theology into my 2 mins with each kid in the grotto!

thanks mate and have a good one!

See here for Jon Chilvers thoughts – http://resistanceandrenewal.net/2011/12/01/should-i-lie-about-santa-claus/

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