When Did Santa Replace Jesus?

You can ignore Santa Claus all you want, but that doesn't mean you don't worship him.

Some people think that Santa is dangerous. Not in a psychological way, like purposely lying to your kids. They think he's dangerous in a theological way. Santa Claus is a birthday thief whose sole purpose is to redirect our focus away from Christ at Christmastime. They might even go so far to say that since Jesus is our object of worship, Santa's attempt to replace Christ makes him demonic. The only problem with this perspective is that it assumes he hasn't already.

One of Santa's most well-known characteristics was canonized by this 1934 song:
He's making a list and checking it twice
Gonna find out who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is comin' to town
He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake
I never thought this was a fun song because it seemed really creepy. To manipulate a child's holiday spirit with threats of coal is one thing, but to tell them that there's someone watching their every movement and REM cycle, waiting to see if they deserve good or bad that year--that just feels invasive. And that's when I realized that Santa doesn't need to replace Jesus because Jesus already looks like Santa.

Think about it. God knows when we sleep and when we wake (his omniscience). God also has a list (his book of life). Either we need to rethink our red-suited witch hunt, or we need to reevaluate our perception of God.

Santa Claus's superpowers wouldn't feel so invasive if he wasn't so distant. We don't know Santa. He shows up once a year to dole out his judgments and the most we catch of him is something going bump in the night and a cookie famine. No wonder some parents are starting to reject Santa out of fear that the government is conditioning us to accept a surveillance state. But more Christians should reject Santa because he's conditioning us to accept a surveillance God.

I'm not ignoring the fact that God is our judge. Of course he sees all and knows all, so we must accept that he deals with us accordingly. But a problem arises when see him only as judge, especially as it relates to our salvation.

Most western Christians see salvation as nothing more than a judicial transaction: a debt was incurred (we sinned), the debt was paid (Christ died), a pardon was offered (we accepted). But we often forget that Christ's incarnation wasn't just miraculous, it was permanent. When he was raised from the dead, he wasn't raised in spirit only but in human body as well. Furthermore, Jesus is called the firstfruits of the resurrection, meaning we will follow suit due to the indwelling of the spirit. This is why Peter said that we participate in the divine nature: we are eternally united to Christ.

This means that Jesus isn't some skyfaring hall monitor and guardian angels aren't elves on shelves. He's our brother. He's our spouse. And he wants to know more about us than simply whether we've been naughty or nice. That's true of any real relationship. Morality isn't judged by blemishes and rewards; it's judged by faithfulness. So if the closest people in our lives aren't waiting for us to screw up, then why would we expect any less from Jesus?

My advice: keep Santa in your home if you want, but keep him out of your heart.

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