When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
I Corinthians 13:11 (emphasis mine)
Don’t get me wrong. I think it is cool for toddlers and pre-school kids to learn about Santa Claus. It is neat to have them write up their Christmas list and expect to see flying reindeer and all that. The legend is useful to encourage good behavior (if not but temporary) and can be a stepping stone to teach children about virtues such as kindness, humility, charity, and hope. Consider Santa, Rudolph, and others as training wheels on a bike. Every child needs training wheels on a bike as they learn to ride.
Now, imagine how foolish a healthy teenager looks on a top class mountain bike with training wheels. Or, how about an adult athlete high tech racing bicycle with such supports. Except for those who have severe problems with balance or some other health issues, it is foolish older people to rely on training wheels. And this is the problem with teens an adults who continue with a Santa Claus spirituality with no desire to grow up to one of St. Nicholas.
Who was St. Nicholas? Read and listen to the links. He was a Bishop (who could trace his ordination back to the Twelve Apostles) who served at the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. Here are a few highlights of lessons we can all learn from this great saint:
- protect the honor of women
- aid the poor
- humbly avoid recognition for good deeds
- do not act violently, even against falsehood
- Christ and the Theotokos restores those who are faithful
Now, perhaps three and four year olds are better off not hearing about how a kind bishop kept three daughters of a poor man from becoming prostitutes. But, why shouldn’t our 13 and 14 year olds hear this story? Why is there a problem to recognize that the first “Secret Santa” helped to form Christian doctrine? Is it that embarrassing to admit that even kind people have occasional anger management issues? And why is it ungodly to talk about his story of redemp… . Oh yeah. We Protestants can’t quite seem to accept that “mother of God” thing.
We get upset when our little kids act like spoiled brats as their minds are so stuck on Santa Claus. But, they will grow out of it. Or will they? Not if they aren’t taught to have a St. Nicholas spiritual outlook. By constantly recycling an immature fantasy image of this good man that really did exist, we are producing 15 to 95 year old spoiled brats who still want stuff from an elf who lives in the North Pole. “Keep Christ in Christmas?” How can we when we make a mockery of one of his devout early followers and refuse to grow up in faith?
Let your kid send a letter to the fat guy in the red suit. Be sure to leave some cookies and eggnog on a little table near the tree. But, we who are of age need to ditch the training wheels of childhood fantasy. This season (feast day is Thursday, December 6th), it would be a good idea for those of us of age to measure our lives to that of the real man of God.