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Here’s an interesting question. “Should Santa be allowed in my church?” We church people will not likely all agree on this question. Let’s see if we can find some reasonable way to consider this question and offer a thoughtful answer.

First, I’d like to believe that, if a man in a red suit, long white beard, with a few soot marks here and there, showed up at my church on a Sunday morning wanting to come in for our worship service, we would not turn him away! We would, I hope, welcome him the way we want to welcome anyone who chooses to visit our church: “We’re glad you’re here! Come in, be welcome, and join us in worship!”

However, I think this question is asking something else entirely: should the Church incorporate Santa Claus in the life of the church? Should we throw a Christmas party for our children, and invite a Santa to come? Is Santa Claus compatible with authentic Biblical Christianity?

My answer may not be the same as yours. That’s okay—you aren’t required to agree with me. Thank you for reading this through to the end, if you do. My answer is this: no. Gently and respectfully, but no. Here’s why:

I like whimsy. I believe there is room for creativity and fantasy. I don’t think that imagination is ungodly. I understand that the myth or legend of Santa Claus has a basis in fact, and that a historical person who came to be known as Saint Nicholas was motivated by love and compassion to secretly give gifts to those less fortunate than others. I love the image of Santa Claus kneeling at a manger.

As a child, I believed in Santa Claus. My parents created the myth for my brothers, sisters, and me. When I got old enough to be brought into the conspiracy, I helped maintain the legend for my younger sisters. One of my assignments was to leave a miniature boot print on the white tile hearth in front of our wood stove in the front room. A small plastic boot decoration and a blank ink stamp pad were the components of this bit of misdirection.

As parents, my wife and I continued the tradition of speaking about Santa Claus to our children. I ate more than a few cookies and drank a few cups of milk, or hot cocoa, which my little ones carefully set out for Santa’s refreshment. I scrawled several Thank You notes over the years, shamelessly signing Santa’s name at the bottom. In fact, I have even dressed in costume and made public appearances as Santa. Let’s just say that I didn’t need to use the optional padding that came with the costume, and leave it at that.

However. Yes, however. Eventually, the legend of Santa Claus gives way to the truth. My children asked me “Is Santa Claus real?” I did not want to lie to my children, yet I was not quite ready to shatter their childlike wonder. So, for a time, I would say simply, “Oh, I know him very well!” (Not a direct lie, and a true statement as far as it goes, but still misleading.) That worked for a little while. Still, the truth comes out eventually. For all our justification, we finally acknowledge that Santa Claus is a legend, a myth. When we do, inevitably, we face the question our children have next: can my parents be trusted to tell me the truth? If Santa Claus is not who they told me he was, what else have they told me which is not true?

Jesus Christ is NOT a Person of legend or myth. His Story is not a fairy tale. I want my children, and your children, to know that Jesus is real. He is a Person of history—THE Person of history! His story is not embellished or exaggerated. Therefore, I want to keep the Santa Claus legend quite separate from my speaking about the Lord Jesus. I do not want to confuse my message by mingling legends and myths into the story of Christmas. When the Church speaks about Jesus, we must speak honestly and clearly, and our message must be authentic and consistent.

For this reason, our church will not include Santa in any of our Christmas services or programs, or in any of our printed literature. We will respect each family’s right to include Santa Claus in their family traditions of Christmas, and we will not accuse them, as some Christians do, of bringing “Satan Claus” into their homes. As a pastor and church leader, I will continue to work to guard our message from being diluted or our ministry being distracted. You know the cliché: “Jesus IS the Reason for the Season!”

May God bless you as you thoughtfully celebrate the occasion of His birth. Merry Christmas!

Rev. Dennis Ashley serves the Lord currently as Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Houlton, Maine. Previous to his current place of ministry, Dennis pastored churches in Chester, Campbell Hall, and Newburgh, New York. He is a graduate of Cairn University, Bethel Seminary, and Palmer Theological Seminary. Dennis is a veteran of the U.S. Army, having served with honor in the Berlin Brigade from 1988-1992. Dennis was a witness of the fall of the Berlin Wall during his tour of duty.

Dennis is the husband of Kelly (Haney) Ashley, the father of Derrin, Ryan and Matthew Ashley, and the grandfather of Eli, Will, and Killian Ashley…so far.

Dennis sometimes writes and blogs under the name “The Scrawling Shepherd.”

7 Responses

  1. Kevin Brown

    Dear Dennis,
    Thank you for your candid analysis of this issue. To me, it all comes down to how seriously we take our belief in Christ and our responsibility to Him for what He has done for us.
    I agree with you and hope you apply your conviction to the Easter Bunny and church egg hunts for our children. Too many churches acknowledge halloween with alternative trick or treat events too. Both of these “holidays” are based on extremely pagan events and have no place in church gatherings or Christian lives.
    Resurrection Sunday is most appropriate, but Easter (after the goddess Ishtar) celebrates the sacrifice of children and the rolling of eggs in their blood as a fertility rite.
    Halloween is a truly Satanic celebration and should be avoided by Christians without hesitation.
    Just my opinion,

    Kevin Brown

    Reply
    • Dennis C Ashley

      Thank you, Kevin. Yes, I try to apply the same reasoning to other “secular” or even “crossover” events. Some years I’ve advocated providing alternative events in place of Halloween, as I haven’t wanted my silence to imply approval, acceptance, or even surrender.

      Reply
  2. Tim Blake

    I agree w/ the article and will add that I believe many kids growing up in Christian homes have went to hell because of the “What else have they lied to me about? Is Jesus really real?”

    Reply
  3. David R. Young

    As a Pastor I did not have Santa Claus in any of the formal church services, but informal gatherings for children in pre-school we had a Santa. Conclusion: Jesus lets us have Santa Claus for fun.

    Reply
  4. Kent

    Whenever my children were to ask about Santa, my answer was
    “He is as real as (insert their favorite cartoon character)”
    example
    “He is a as real as Bob the Tomato”

    This allowed them for self discovery as they grew older and understood that he was a part of stories, not of reality. When they are truly young they easily would believe that ‘Bob the Tomato’ or ‘Dora the Explorer’. I didn’t go around and say that those characters weren’t real. They figured it out in time as they matured. Similarly for Santa Claus. We did have to have a talk though that some children weren’t as mature yet and believed the characters were real and they should allow them to learn for themselves as well.

    Reply
    • John Kassouf

      Nicholas, a real bishop of the 300’sAD. A man from Myra (present day Turkey) was a confessor under Diocletian in the late 200’s. He returned to Myra hailed St. Nicholas or confessor Nicholas, after Constantine received Christ. Nicholas attended and participated in the council of Nicea, taking on Arius and helping to refute and settle the heresy of Christ’s full divinity and full humanity in the hypostatic union. Nicholas pointed to Christ not himself. His acts of charity were to point to Christ and not himself. Our sinful world today has secularized him, They kept his bishops colors, changed his miter hat and his chasuble to the red suit he wears, having removed all emphasis in his life toward Christianity except his spirit of giving. He would find our current portrayal of him deplorable and unacceptable.

      Reply

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