Ahhh, Santa...never quite sure what to do with the jolly old guy this time of year. As a child, Christmas was all about Santa for our family--no Jesus. So as parents, we went the other way with our children and had all Jesus, very little Santa. Now, my adolescents refer to that decision begrudgingly. Oh well, they get to do what they want with their children. I guess it's a Santa pendulum.
So what is the allure of Santa? This weekend as I finished up my shopping at the mall, I saw a loooong line of parents and small children waiting to see Santa. It stopped me in my tracks! Why would parents (who people often say are unmotivated to do anything that benefits their children) stand in that line? Children decked out in their finest Christmas wear wiggled impatiently. That couldn't have been fun for parents! Why would they do it?
I'd love to hear other insights (because I think we can learn from this for the kingdom of God). But here are a few things I think...
1. Parents want their kids to believe in something. And even though it's magical to believe in a man who delivers Christmas gifts to every single house in one night, it is something to believe in. (And parents will go to great lengths to continue the charade--and even dread the day that the children discover the truth and stop believing.) Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And, yet, we have the living, unchanging, never-disappointing truth about Christmas.
2. Children want it. Parents today are highly motivated to deliver what their kids want. So how do we create things (programs, take-home papers, training, etc.) that kids ask for--and parents say yes to? That's our challenge.
3. There's a benefit at the end. Parents get a memorable and cute photo of their dressed-up child sitting with Santa that they'll remember forever. It's one more milestone in life that parents want to mark. So, would parents do whatever it took to mark their children's faith milestones--if they felt there was great enough benefit at the end? I think so. And that challenges us to consider how to maximize milestones in a family's faith journey--so parents value the trip.
So, it made me think. And whether you're an elf or a grinch when it comes to Santa, here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas!