If You Have To Choose — Christ Over Claus

It’s an interesting Christmas season with my clients, the economy, and Christmas.

I met a man this week who believes that, as a Christian, he’s “not going to lie to his children about Santa” because the Bible says “don’t lie”.  I met with a woman who, though she’s on welfare — when given the option to stop being homeless or get her kids gifts, she’s spending all of her money on Christmas gifts because she “wants them to know that she loves them”.  Then, today I met a child who told me he “doesn’t believe in” Christ, but told me all about the presents he’s getting… when he gets out of the place he’s in.  Still, you could see it got to him when I talked about Jesus (via John the Baptist) not caring about our “flash” and our “bling” , our style, or our fame, but he cares about our connection to each other and how we treat each other.  He seemed to “get” that he would rather have his parents than their presents for Christmas.

All of this leads me to this thought: Santa is not Jesus. Santa is related to Jesus in some way. Both are images of goodness and giving and expressing love. Santa’s gifts can be bought, sold, traded, fought over at the store, sold on e-bay for incredible amounts and any number of other things by unscrupulous adults.  Sadly, there are a lot of con artists who would like people to believe the same is true about Jesus.  For a “small fee” or a “gift to the TV ministry”, Jesus gifts can be had, too, according to them.  “Jesus wants you to be wealthy and have “abundant life”!, they say. By this they mean “Jesus promises you a giant house and a nice car!”

In the old days, people used to say that Christmas was too commercialized. Now it’s so commercialized, we have forgotten that it used to be different. The Santa version of Christmas has won out over the Christ version of Christmas for most of America today. “Abundant Life” — for both secular folk and some religious folk — means houses, cars, fame, and fortune. In this world on Christmas , “love” equals “money” so that people with no money feel they can’t show their love.

The flip side of this is that people who do love their children can’t buy their kids presents because that would mean that they believe the dominant paradigm?

We have to change the question here if this is the case. Love is love and money is money. But sometimes, we express love with money — if we have it. And in Christ’s world, love is worth more than all the money in the world.  Thus, the child born in a pile of straw surrounded by smelly shepherds is also spoken of glowingly by angels, even if his folks couldn’t buy a spot in the inn.

Children are loved not because they bring us money (they cost us that) and are not shown love with only money. People who think that money literally equals love are terribly disappointed when their children go up. All the money in the world can’t fill a child’s heart with the love and belonging and peace and joy in the way that simply being there does. Being trustworthy and faithful and loving and kind and moral and supportive — as God/Jesus is — makes love the norm, increases self-esteem and fights off mental illness.  Seeing people as they truly are: worthy of love and capable of great things — despite or regardless of their surroundings or their image– is what Jesus does.  That is the universal yearning.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t have celebrations or give gifts? No. It just means we should realize that we are the primary gift to our children. After that, it’s all gravy.  Toys which come from our hearts (or Santa’s) are real gifts because the giver cares, knows the child, and responds. The child feels treasured, not bought.

BTW (and this is important) Christmas gifts have the same effect on teens and adults. Gifts are great and all (they really are), but after awhile nice gifts from a mean-spirited, uncaring, or unconnected person become hollow while even a chintzy gift from a treasured person holds real meaning.  In short, you can only buy a person for so long before they see right through it. If you have no money, you’ll just have to give love.   There’s no reason to feel guilty, because you’re not depriving your children. You’re giving them what they want most in the world — an experience of Christ.






2 thoughts on “If You Have To Choose — Christ Over Claus

  1. While we may not agree on religion, I have to comment on money v. love as gifts. As I think I’ve told you, I grew up with money and gifts being given to me rather than time or love. Mom and Dad both worked 40+ hours per week, Mom during the day and Dad at night. The only time we spent together was on Sundays, and usually Dad was house cleaning and Mom had a migraine. Regardless, Dad tried to spend time with me by asking about my homework and doing flashcards with me over dinner. Mom “bought me off” as I felt it. I could literally get whatever I wanted. I’m pretty sure she felt guilty for working as much as she did. Needless to say, I’m not too impressed with how I was as a child. I remember one Christmas when we went to visit Dad’s family in Indiana. My parents didn’t bring many presents for me to open because it was expensive to ship them, so on Christmas I opened one gift and I cried selfishly. That one gift was a Premie Cabbage Patch doll that I had wanted forever but I still felt entitled to more. Here’s the kicker though – when we got home the entire 2nd floor of the house was filled with toys for me (and my doll who’s name was June by the way). They had bought me things but just didn’t bring them – my Grandparents set them all up for us after we left. Selfish selfish child. Looking back I blame my Mom especially for that, but I know now that she was doing what she had learned from her parents (who probably learned it from their parents). I catch myself trying to do the same for my son, and I don’t want to be that person. So I stop myself from working and I get on the floor and we play. I’m behind in my work, but I never want to be a parent that teaches Silas that what I want or need to do is more important than his love. I have to remind myself that he doesn’t care about pop beads and toys that make noise – he wants me to hang out on the floor and tickle him and love on him. So that’s what I do. But unfortunately I have to remind myself. Note to parents: your kids are watching and learning how to parent – make sure you’re doing what you want them to do with their kiddos.

    • Liz: It’s been so long that I don’t think of you this way, but I remember as I see it that this was part of your history…

      Anyway, you’re learning — which means your family tree is going the right way.

      I like to bridge the religion and psychology thing, because I think “Christian” means “Psychologically Healthy” — If Jesus knows God, he must have been the most mentally healthy guy around. Many of us in the religious community — people who actually know God — despite what you may see on tv — experience Jesus or God as some Jungian archetype of what a loving relationship is\can be. “Christ” in this sense (saving\safety, wholeness, love, recognition) is what Silas experiences when you play with him and love him — also when you teach him right from wrong. (“Wright from wrong” in your case?).

      OK, that’s my reach into your world-view. Now I have a question for you from mine… I never understood this, simply because it’s not my experience. People who are not Christian (or religious) make moral decisions all the time. How? Pam Shuman, for instance, had a conscience and did what I would call “Christian” actions. How does one do that without actual Christianity. Christians need to respond, or take into account, science and its reality. But scientists and secular folks need to make moral decisions (right\wrong, good\bad etc.) How?

      Any ideas? How did YOU learn right from wrong? How do you decide what’s good and bad for Silas?
      All you other people — with or without religion — do so. How do YOU do it? I’d love to hear, so I can understand how it works — or doesn’t.

      (BTW, I know it’s the end of the semester, so when you can, I’d love to hear it, but there’s no rush… Thanks.



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