Monday, December 12, 2011

When did holidays get so complicated?

No, I'm not talking about planning, traveling, budgeting, decorating, ... although all of that pretty much drives me crazy.

When I was growing up, we dressed up for Halloween (I even went as a witch one year - gasp!), the Easter Bunny brought baskets of sugary goodness, the Tooth Fairy made regular visits, and Santa Claus was a huge part of Christmas.  By the end of elementary school, Halloween had taken on a decidedly different feel.  I remember the first time I had to get my candy x-rayed at the police station before I could eat any of it (in small-town Hartselle, AL, no less) and none of us dared to bite into candy apples for fear of biting a razor blade.  Then churches started holding Harvest Festivals, either overtly or covertly declaring all Halloween celebrations to be completely evil.

My kids dress up for Halloween now, but I'm always in a bit of a quandary about it.  We've never done Easter Baskets with our kids, so that hasn't been an issue, and no teeth have been lost, so no Tooth Fairy at this point.  But Santa.

Good ol' Saint Nick.  I grew up believing in Santa - hook, line, and sinker.  In fact, even after I "knew" (Thanks, Blake and Paul Wright!  Grrr!), I still tried very hard to still believe.  It was magical, and I didn't want to give that up.  I do not remember at any point having any sort of difficulty in believing in/about Jesus related to also believing in Santa.  I never thought, "My parents lied to me.  I'll never believe them again!"

Somehow, I don't think my parents ever even gave a second thought to teaching us to believe in Santa.  As far as I know, no one was teaching/blogging/preaching that Christian parents shouldn't teach their children to believe in Santa.  (Well, they certainly weren't blogging since computers still took up entire rooms....)

But somehow my generation is conflicted about just about everything - especially those of us who are Christians.  I don't think it's just me because I've seen many conversations on Facebook on this very topic and been a part of a few of those discussions.

I was all set to defend my Santa-teaching position until reading this article.  Even after that, I still wasn't entirely sure what to do, so I prayed about it.  I think I got my answer.

This morning, my son came to me in tears, fearing that - because he hadn't "been good" all year - Santa wasn't going to bring him any presents.  Here's the trouble: he's right.  He hasn't been good all year.  In fact, he hasn't even been good all day.  So is there a "good enough" with Santa?  Where's the cutoff?

I am so thankful that this lead into a wonderful discussion of the Gospel.  No, Nathan, you haven't been good.  Neither have I.  We have both messed up ... a lot.  But whose birthday are we celebrating?  And why did He come?  He came because God knew we would mess up.  He knew that no matter how hard we tried, we wouldn't be able to stop messing up.  And God doesn't let any sin into Heaven, so that's a big problem.  But He died on the cross to solve that problem.  To fix those mess-ups.  To take the punishment for us that we rightly deserved.  But before He died on the cross, He was born in Bethlehem.  He left Heaven - where no one messes up, no one gets sick, no one hurts, no one gets hungry or tired and cranky - and He came down here into our mess.  He went through all of those things, just like we do.  I know He got tired.  I know He got hurt.  I believe He also got sick, skinned His knee, got frustrated, laughed, cried, got excited - all of it - but He did it all without ever messing up.  He knows how you feel.  The God who made the universe knows what it's like to be a 5-year-old boy, because He's been one.  And that's why we celebrate Christmas.  It's the best news ever!  Our rescuer has come!

So tonight, we're planning to take the plunge with the big Santa Talk.  I'll admit a part of me is sad.  But I see the Holy Spirit working in his little heart, and I don't want anything to interfere with that.  If he was still oblivious to the Gospel (as Megan seems to be at this point), it would be different.

Sigh.  When did holidays get so complicated?

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