St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who, after his parents’ death, leveraged his inheritance to help the poor and sick. The legend of his generosity grew, and his sainthood became associated with gift-giving. Thus, we can teach our children that the spirit of Santa emerged from an understanding of Jesus. Without Jesus, Saint Nick and the spirit of Santa would have never come into being.
2. Teach our children that they are not good, Jesus is.
This one may be a little difficult for parents. I’m also sure some traditions of Christianity may differ slightly or even disagree slightly in how I articulate this theological point.
My wife and I have tried to groom our kids from a young age that they can’t do good (or be good) on their own. In other words, we have not tried to encourage a self-help mantra, that if they just try a little harder and dig a little deeper, they can behave better. For instance, when our children didn’t want to share, or when our eldest child was acting mean towards the youngest, we don’t groom them to “be better.” We groom them to run to Jesus and ask him to help them be generous and be kind.
Early in our parenthood, we wanted them to believe sound theology that they needed a Savior because they weren’t good. What do we do to children if we spend their whole childhood telling them how good and how wonderful they are, only to flip the switch on them later in life and tell them that they need a Savior? Why on earth would they believe they need a Savior when during their most formative years were told they were so good? This is why we teach our kids their need, our need, for a Savior.
Jesus’ goodness, Jesus’ righteousness have been given (imputed) to us. Therefore, we have taught our children that what Jesus accomplished through his death and resurrection, and applied on our behalf through faith, determines our goodness. It is in Jesus we are declared good.
As a result, in the Laxton house, “being good” has nothing to do with why Santa brings our kids presents. Being good should be a behavior that flows from the goodness of Christ in us, not to get toys or rewards, but to please God.
The telos is not rewards or toys, but God’s pleasure and glory. We must teach our children, from the beginning, about the glory, pleasure, and praise of our great God—and that everything we do should revolve around him. Therefore, from God, we behave properly because of who God is and what he has done. Good behavior is thus rooted in who God is, not what we want.
3. Teach our kids that every good and perfect gift comes from God, even gifts from Santa.
Every evening when I pray for our kids, without fail I thank the Lord for every good thing in our life. I don’t have time every evening to state all the specifics, but over the course of days I mention our health, house, cars, friends, air, bed, toys, family, siblings, birthday parties, presents, etc.
Our desire as parents, is to massage into the hearts and minds of our kids that everything that we enjoy in life, everything that is good in life, has flowed from the hands of our benevolent Father. Thus, even Santa and the presents he brings are gifts from the Father. Once again, Santa plays a role, but the attention always lands on God.