It feels strange to write to you; it’s been a long time. I’m married now. New last name, new state, kids of my own.
I was a late bloomer in a lot of ways, including learning your secret. One year, I got a new leotard for gymnastics, and my coach made the mistake of asking me the next week if it fit. My parents seemed sad when I asked them if you were real, like a piece of my childhood was gone.
But you weren’t out of my life: I have a little brother, as you know, and even though somewhere along the way I’m sure he learned the secret, too, but he made the Santa=presents connection and never squealed. So, you and I bumped into each other until my parents decided that married folks probably don’t need socks full of goodies.
And now I have two little ones of my own. Some would say they’d definitely make the nice list…and that’s where our problems begin, Santa.
See, when we label kids “good”—and let’s face it, even the naughty ones get gifts, which means everyone is on the nice list—we forget that Christmas exists because of Jesus, who was born in the manger precisely because no one is good.
“…it is written, ‘None is righteous; no, not one’” (Romans 3:10)
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
My kids are mostly well-behaved children, but they are not inherently good. They are sinful creatures who need a savior far more than a pile of presents. I’m all for presents for my children (what parent isn’t delighted to watch their child’s eyes light up at the sight of something new and already beloved?), but I cannot tie those gifts to their behavior and their worth. And I can’t let them determine their value based on your judgment of them as good or bad.
I know what you’re thinking, Santa. “I’m not trying to replace Jesus Christ! That would be absurd!” But if you see kids when they’re sleeping, and you know when they’re awake, and you know if they’ve been bad or good, and you have power over whether they receive blessings or not…how different are you from an omniscient God?
I can’t let my kids be confused, and let’s face it: you have toys. Reindeer. Jolly little elves. Milk and cookies. At their age, you are far more appealing than a baby in a manger or a man dying a horrible death, ushering in new life in a way they can’t even understand yet.
I cannot serve you and Jesus well. There are probably lots of parents out there who make it all work, but, Santa, I am not one of them. I'm sorry.
Someday we will tell our girls about St. Nicholas, about how he was a generous man who loved Jesus and helped others because of that great love, but for now we will talk about a baby in a manger, a star in the sky, shepherds and angels, and all that baby grew up to do for us.
We do still plan to fill stockings with treats, so think of that as our nod to you, even if you are not with us. This is a hard decision (it would be easier to just go with the flow and the fun), but I do feel that it’s the best one for my family. I hope that you can understand.
image via AurelienS