Yes, I am a Lutheran Pastor. Yes, I am an adult. And yes, I believe in Santa Claus.
I know of a great many Lutheran Pastors who love to get their Grinch on by criticizing, making fun of or outright scorning the right jolly old elf, but I say this is due to their hearts being two sizes too small.
I think it is dangerously irresponsible for Christians to lead with criticism, rather than love, and it is the opposite of what we are called to do. Sure, pastors are called upon to preach the whole Word of God, and we are all called to speak the Truth – but we are called to speak it in love, and to proclaim the Gospel above all else.
So when I hear Christians – and my fellow Lutheran pastors – mock or criticize St. Nick, it gets my hackles up. Because Santa Claus is the embodiment of Christmas, in that he brings joy and love and peace to children on the very night in which our Savior was born. Also, believing in Santa is fun!
We teach our children about Santa Claus for these reasons. Sure, there are problems with the story: how does he make it around the world in one night? How does he determine who’s been bad and who’s been good? Can reindeer really fly?
Actually, those aren’t the problems I meant, and those can be explained by having childlike faith, something I believe we could all do with more of. I actually mean this: should we be teaching our children that good boys and girls get presents, while naughty kids get nothing (or coal)?
Well, consider this: there is value in teaching our children to behave. However, we are largely able to give our children presents for Christmas in this country because we are incredibly wealthy compared to the rest of the world. Even many poor families in this country may ‘Christmas shop’ at the various churches and charities which provide these opportunities through the generosity of those who are blessed to give and serve. The story of Santa, though, becomes very difficult to explain and understand when a child who has been mostly good receives a perfectly fine but modest present, only to find out that the school bully has received a veritable Brinks truck full of expensive tech.
So perhaps it would be much better to teach our children to behave because that’s who we are as a family, and save Christmas to teach about Jesus and the Gospel. What I mean is this: that Santa Claus (or whomever) brings gifts to children in order to celebrate the greatest gift ever given: Jesus, the Son of God, who was born on Christmas. Then Santa becomes a fun and joyous part of what should be a night of pure joy and fun as we celebrate the birth of the Christ child.
In fact, when our family was legitimately living under the poverty line while we were at seminary, our Christmas was provided by the generosity of others – which made Santa Claus very real and very easy to explain. But after I received my call to serve as a Pastor and we could afford to give our children a Christmas, Santa’s role as gift provider diminished and his role as a symbol for how we could help others give Christmas to their children increased. He still plays a role in our house, it has just changed over time. And frankly, I think it’s awesome.
“But you’re lying to your children” you might say, to which I would answer, “Oh, go back up Mount Crumpet and leave the roast beast where you found it.”
I have never lied to my children, because I believe in Santa Claus. More accurately, I believe in the spirit of Santa Claus. Do I believe in a fat man with a beard who delivers presents every Christmas? Every time I look in the mirror, you bet!
But seriously – is there a dude living at the North Pole with a bunch of elves? I’m not going to answer that and you can’t make me. What I do know, though, is that my children love Christmas and Santa and all of the surrounding parts and pieces, and they understand what it all means. And even though my teenage son and grade school daughter are at different points in their belief and participation where Santa is concerned, they both know the truth – even if it is to varying degrees of the whole story – and my son will tell you he never felt lied to, misled or manipulated, in any way, and I know because we have talked about it.
And because Santa Claus is fun! And so is Christmas! So stop being so Grinchy, and start holding hands with the person next to you and SING:
And now it’s in your head and it will never leave. You’re welcome, and a Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
*For more on the real, actual, satisfactual, yes-he-really-is-real Santa Claus, read here.