The Problem with Santa

I have a problem with Santa.  I’m not hostile towards the jolly fellow.  He’s actually a really nice guy.  But I still have a really big problem with him.

Santa is a legalist.

He makes a list.  He checks it twice.  He finds out who is naughty or nice.  And then he rewards the good children and withholds gifts from the bad children.

And somehow he is also supposed to be some cosmic vending machine.  We sit on his lap, tell him what we want, and hope for the best on Christmas morning.

I understand that his character, reputation, and persona has evolved over the years, originating in the life and stories of the original Saint Nicholas.  Whatever he used to be is not the problem.  I simply think that today’s perception of the Santa character communicates a message contrary to grace.

And grace (a undeserved gift) is the message of Christmas.  By God’s grace, Jesus Christ came to earth “to save us all from Satan’s power.”  There is a naughty and nice list.  But there is only one name on the nice column – Jesus of Nazareth.  All the rest of us are on the naughty list because “all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

So why did God give us the gift of His Son, Jesus?  Because of grace.  Through His life, death, and resurrection, we can be saved from the punishment we deserve and in addition experience fullness of life, joy, and peace in Christ.

Unfortunately, Santa represents the way many people (including many religious people on earth) view God.  But God does not treat us as our sins deserve.  God is not Santa.  God is the Father of grace.


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Dr. Jesse Joyner travels nationwide as a speaker and entertainer. His primary role is that of a performing juggler spreading joy and the love of learning to family and kids events. H earned his PhD in Educational Studies at Trinity International University (Deerfield, IL). He enjoys playing the piano, bird watching, and old houses. He lives in Richmond, VA with his wife, Sarah, and their three kids - the perfect number for juggling children.