Saturday, April 26, 2008

As Promised...The Santa Post

I finished Treasuring God in Our Traditions today, but my mind is still busily processing. I feel like I have a general idea about how the Piper's used "everyday" routines and "especially" traditions to teach their children about Christ, but now I need to go back through the chapters, consider the rhythms and habits and traditions of my own family and make sure that God is the focus and the reason for them. That's quite a task.

Since I talked a little bit about the "everyday" traditions in this previous post, I'll share what I learned about "especially" traditions in this post, or rather, I'll share what I am currently digesting in my heart and mind.

To begin her discussion of special days and holidays , she said this:

"God Himself appointed special days, such as Passover, for His people and gave them ceremonies to set those days off from the others."

and this:

"The ceremony of a special day keeps it from slipping away like any ordinary day."

and this:

"Our 'especially' traditions anchor us and our children in the harbor of our family, reflecting our true refuge - God. The way we observe these occasions - the focus of our observation - has great potential to show our children what we think is most important and to help them value what we hold most dear."

In short, these days, their traditions and the preparation of them are opportune moments in our year to remind us and our children what God has done, moments to worship Him. And so, Mrs. Piper suggests that as we create the culture of our homes, let us strategically create traditions that accomplish that goal. about Christmas and Easter and magical holiday we go. This is the reason I started reading this book after all. (It has been so much more though!)

After reading the previous 75 pages, I wasn't at all surprised when I came to the Christmas and Easter chapters and read that her family does not incorporate Santa Claus or the Easter bunny into their holiday celebrations. Everything they do is very intentional and purposeful and drenched in is all pointing to God and His Story.

Noel addresses the issue of Santa Claus specifically, and very clearly articulates the struggle I feel in my heart year after year. While Santa may be a good, jolly character, his economy, make-believe as it may be, is the complete opposite of the economy of God. Santa's economy is based on behavior, God's economy is based on His grace and mercy and has nothing to do with our behavior.
But they're both good and we should believe in them both?
Is that not confusing?
Do we, as humans not have enough trouble trusting that God does not love us based on our works?

The rest of my frustration falls under the fact that the Santa story and all that goes with it is horribly distracting from The Point. I'm not going to go to Suzy's birthday party and sing about Amy. Why is it acceptable to sing about and celebrate someone else when it is the birth of the Christ that we are celebrating? Is His story not fabulous enough that we have to supplement the holiday with tiny elves and red-nosed reindeer? I've heard people say before that it's fun for the children to make-believe and it's a magical time. Well, the Christmas story may not be make-believe, but it is certainly magical and mysterious and interesting and beautiful and it changes lives forever. Santa never did that.

Now, despite the fact that I have pretty strong convictions on this subject, I confess that in the midst of the holidays, I am less resolute. Partly because Casey and I haven't really had to face the Santa Claus issue with Braelyn yet and have still been solidifying our thoughts. But also, because I don't want to be the "Scrooge" or the "Grinch Who Stole Christmas,"...I know that's what people think! And then there's the question about if my kid tells all the other kids the truth about that "sin" single-handedly robs the children of their childhood and anybody else catching the irony of all this? It seems so ridiculous, but the pressure to be a Santa supporter is so strong. I wonder if there is such a pressure, even amongst Christians, to worship Christ in this season?

I haven't worked this all out in my mind yet, remember, I am still processing! But I think at this point, I would feel uncomfortable making Santa Claus or the Easter bunny part of our family traditions. I am not going to wear t-shirts about it or put bumper stickers on my car, or even evangelize against Santa, but I just can't tell my daughter that Christ is the greatest, most satisfying, most enjoyable Person she'll ever know and then on the holidays that remind us of the things that He has done, bring in some other character. I just can't.

So what do we do? Noel offers some beautiful suggestions for making Christ the King of all of our celebrations. I strongly recommend that you read her book for yourself. Not only will you get ideas from her, but as you're reading, you'll find yourself thinking creatively about implementing your own God-centered traditions. I would love to share some of the ideas I've been thinking about, but I think I'll do that another day, or perhaps, around that particular holiday. In turn, I would love to hear some of the special things that you do in your family. The conversation's not over :).

For now, I'll close with these quotes:

"My goal is that we evaluate our traditions. It's not enough to do things just because that's the way we've always done them. We must think about our traditions. If an activity or custom says what we mean about God and our relationship with Him, we keep it. Some we'll want to change and some we'll want to set aside to make place for something new."


"May the ceremonies of our homes be true ceremony-
from Him,
because of Him,
pointing towards Him,
honoring Him,
thanking Him."


Morgan said...

wow stephanie, you have given me a lot to think about...we haven't even begun talking about what we are going to do around the holidays, but i guess we have plenty of time for that!!

the hungarian said...

thanks for this book suggestion! When Grace was 3, I felt compelled to tell her Santa was fake. Not out of moral conviction, but b/c she was petrified of the talking santa robot at the walmart entrance. I just wanted to be able to go to walmart without my kid peeing her pants out of fear... anyway, years later she knows he's fake and is not traumatized. As our children get older, it is hard to be IN the world, but not OF the world, and Santa falls in that category for me. She knows santa & the bunny come out at the mall each year, but knowing they are "fake" help us to keep them from being as cool as Jesus, who is REAL!

annette said...

Steph, the Lord told me to get rid of Santa years ago. My child was off to college. He said get rid of your Santa decorations, Santa is a counterfeit. I had gotten rid of Halloween and Easter Bunny stuff years prior to this. That being said, I would never tell someone to do the same thing unless they were convicted by the Lord. I had another friend who was told to trash all her Santa stuff as her grandchildren were born. The Lord used the word counterfeit with her as well.

So I say pray about it, ask for clarity, and be obedient to what the Lord says to do.

My cousins in England tell their daughter Father Christmas is make believe but not to discuss it w/ other children. "Father Christmas" leaves something Mariah under the tree. She has fun w/ it but knows Christmas is really all about Jesus.

Erin said...

My favorite traditions that I started with MaryEvyn are a bit cheesy, but they make the point, keep us all focused and most importantly she remembers.
Christmas: I wrap up the baby Jesus from our manger scene and that is the one gift she opens on Christmas Eve. Then Reed reads the Christmas Story (that would be from Luke's gospel, not the Santa poem!)
Easter: Resurrection eggs and I hide the last egg (the empty one) on Easter morning for her to find. So far the Easter bunny has never even really come up. I've found that one to be a little easier to avoid.
Love this discussion, Steph. And I know you'll be blessed for your intentionality in this!

Abbie said...

I've struggled with how to handle this too...
This last Christmas was the first one that Liv could really understand things. We kind of incorporated both. We really drove in the point that Christmas is Jesus birthday! We made him a cake and blew out the candles.
We also took her to see Santa. I don't think we ever made a point to tell her that he brings her presents on Christmas, We just made it as something fun to do, you know, to go visit Santa, but while completely maintaining the real reason for Christmas. She knows that the presents are from mommy and daddy on christmas, and that we are celebrating Jesus birthday.

Laura said...

I jumped her from Becca.. and I am so after this book. We also stopped the 'santa' thing from the start. When the kids were old enough to understand 'who' he was b/c of other kids or family. We talked about who Saint Nick really was. And how he was on mission for God. I am happy we did this. It has helped my kids understand that Christmas is not about 'them' getting gifts. But the receiving of a Savior. Easter. Is the same for us. Halloween. We don't do. Period. It is possible to do it. It is hard though and some people think your a freak. but we are right!?!?

Jen said...

yeah for no santa. Its really hard though. cause even though my girls know that christmas has nothing to do with Santa and everything to do with Jesus, and that Santa doesn;t bring you presents..they still get into Santa! Have I taught them nothing???!!!

One year Syd asked Bobby, "Well how come other kids think that Santa really is real?" The response, "Other kids parents lie to them."

that might not be the best way to handle it, but it got the point across I guess.

In regards to not spoiling Santa for everyone else...We told Sydney that if other kids want to believe in Santa they can. But she can take the chance to tell her friends what Christmas is really about...Jesus.

Edlow said...

WOW! I am so behind on even getting a chance to read these posts, so pardon my VERY late comment......Yes, we "do" Santa.
mostly because I have such wonderful memories fo Santa( rem when he came to visit us at your house when we were sick and all our friends were at Cindy's christmas party) Or when I was so sad because I did not have cookies for him , so I left veggies for the reindeer and Santa left me a nice note...ahhhhh Good times LOL.

Anyway, here is how we bridged the Gap between the real St. Nick and the current Santa....
1) RIley hears us call santa ST. Nick A LOT. He knows that St.Nick was a bishop at his church and that he Loved God more than anything. He knows st. nick's family left him lots of Money and he used it to help ladies get married..( I know there are lots of blanks in this info, but we will give more detail as Riley asks for it).

He knows that St. nicks' gift giving was done in secret and that he gave of his worldly things to show others God's love.

So we all continue in the same tradition of gift giving to show others how much God love's them. ( this has also been great for encouraging him to purge through his toys. He is always talking about how We should Be like St. Nick and give our things away :))

Anyway, we just have never alluded to the fact that the real St. nick a log time ago or that he died ever, NOR have we said he is still alive.... are you following all this?

Near Christmas time I was having Lunch at Riley's school and I watched him lean over to a boy babbling on about Santa and tell him that "Santa" is really a leader at his church and that he loves Jesus so much! My hear just melted.

Jocelyn on the other hand is Santa obssessed. She calls him "ho ho" She recently picked up a princess barbie she liked for her Bday. I told her to wait until her party and we would see. She told me not to worry. "Ho ho" could get it for her bday! LOL Kids say silly things!

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