I started to write a rant about commercialism and children at Christmas, but I decided to keep my mouth shut. My children aren't old enough yet to have been sucked in by marketing in the toy industry, so maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. Maybe I should wait until I have school age kids, and if I can still say with a straight face how important it is to teach moderation, I'll say it then.
For now, let's talk about Santa Claus.
Watch anything that involves Santa and children - The Polar Express, an M&M commercial, anything. Watch the way parents (or elves, or toys, or reindeer - depending on the scene) talk about believing, and the wonder on children's faces when they realize Santa is real. Substitute the word "Jesus" for Santa, and tell me that's not a religious experience. Tell me that's not the type of wonder and hope I want to see my children experience in Christ soon. Cynics love to compare God to a cosmic Santa; that's not at all what I'm saying. I'm saying that children are encouraged, through media and often through their parents and grandparents, to believe that Santa is a living being, capable of miracles. And if children believe, so the story goes, their prayers for toys will be answered. Except that it's a lie, and when they get to a certain age, some adult (or, more often, some classmate) informs them that their faith in Santa has been a farce. Joke's on them.
One day soon I'm going to talk to my children about Jesus. I'm going to tell them that He is a being capable of miracles, and that if they believe, their prayer for redemption will be answered. And because I want them to believe me then, I can't lie to them now. I can't let them think Santa is capable of miracles, because he's not. I don't want them to have any reason to see faith as a farce, so I have to let Santa be what he is. A tradition, a game, an ornament, a man at the mall. Something fun, but not real. Like Mickey Mouse and chocolate milk.