"Why didn't Santa come to our house?" our 4-year-old son asked. "Was I bad or something?" An ominous silence filled our once joyful minivan as I looked helplessly at my wife. It was time for parenting trick Number 412. "Son, look! A bulldozer! Cool!"
We dodged that bullet, but we knew this was only the beginning.
Easter and Christmas—two holidays that have caused more controversy in Christian circles than when Jesus is coming back. Is Santa an innocent story or the Devil's trick to pull our focus from Christ? Is the Easter Bunny just a silly way to keep the kids busy while we get the ham in the oven, or is he a dangerous myth that leaves our children wondering what's true and what isn't?
But in truth, most of us follow the culture's leading when it comes to celebrating these major holidays. The spotlight's shift from Christ to a focus on presents, eggs, and such is becoming commonplace, even among Christians. My wife and I began to wonder if we had the fortitude to follow in Joshua's footsteps, " … as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15).
Like everyone else, my wife and I both grew up with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Admittedly, we turned out just fine (an argument, by the way, you'll hear from anyone you tell that you're not teaching your kids about Santa). We each have a passion for God in spite of our former belief in an egg-laying bunny and a large, jolly fellow who jumps down chimneys.
Even worse, we have no fonder memories than hunting for Easter eggs on bright spring days and rushing downstairs to open the presents Santa had left on Christmas morning. I didn't even care that my chimney led straight to the furnace—that was Santa's problem. Our problem, however, was that both of us grew up caring only about the gift portion of Christmas and Easter. As parents, we wanted our children to have warm memories like ours, yet give Jesus all the glory on his days.
Now, we're smart people. We figured out potty training, how to keep our son from removing all his clothes in public, and even got him to eat broccoli. This one little parenting dilemma was no match for two smart parents, or was it?
We tried refocusing. One Christmas we decided to go cold turkey: No Santa. We gave our son, Levi, three presents, representing the three gifts from the wise men. He picked out a new toy to give to a needy family. We read the Christmas story. Everyone felt real spiritual all right, but my son didn't understand why Santa hopped down every chimney but his. Something just didn't feel right—to Levi or to us.