I wore a Santa Claus suit to a university department Christmas party this week. It occurred to me that this is something I wouldn’t have done a decade or more ago. In fact, during my early days at the university I had a beautifully tailored Santa Claus suit and gave it away.
It’s not that my Santa Claus suit collided with my convictions. It’s just that I didn’t want to run the risk of offending anyone who didn’t like the idea of Santa Claus. And back then, our transformation from a more rules-oriented denominational college to an emerging, biblical worldview-based Christian university had just begun. People were more sensitive then to what we sometimes call “externals,” the dos and don’ts of Christian faith.
Wearing a Santa Claus suit today is not a signal that I don’t care anymore about what people think. Rather, I made the decision to wear the suit because a staff member with a great sense of humor—Vicki Pratt—asked me to wear it just for fun, so I did. And it was a lot of fun.
I respect people whose convictions lead them to reject “playing Santa Claus” with their children or grandchildren. If their decision does not in itself violate the moral will of God, and this one clearly does not, than they are certainly free to enjoy a Santa-Claus-free Christmas. More power to them. They simply need to avoid the temptation to judge others who disagree with them.
I respect people whose convictions allow them to be at ease with the Santa Claus fantasy. If their decision does not in itself violate the moral will of God, and I see no scriptural indication that it does, than they are free to enjoy the harmless silliness of Santa Claus. More power to them. They simply need to avoid the temptation of ridiculing others who disagree with them.
Coming to terms with Santa Claus is a Christian liberty issue. On Santa Claus, God never says “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not.” Christian liberty means we’re both free to make and responsible for making our own decisions based upon God’s revealed moral will in the Bible.
God does give us principles to apply. He does say that the name of Jesus Christ is above every name. He says that Jesus Christ is the awaited Immanuel, the Messiah, the Savior. He does say that none other than Jesus Christ must be worshipped and exalted. He does say in different words, that Jesus, born in manger, is the “reason for the season.” According to the Word of God, you can’t take Christ out of Christmas and you can’t put him back, because no matter what a given culture says or does, without him there is no Christmas.
So is it possible temporarily to “displace” Christ with some overzealous, foolish, ignorant, or intentionally secularist emphasis upon Santa Claus? Of course. If this happens we need to understand it and respond winsomely. But is this what most people are thinking when they “play Santa Claus” with their children, grandchildren, or friends. I don’t think so. For most I think its light-hearted fantasy coming to us as harmless tradition, and Christians who noisily attack this don’t accomplish much other than making themselves look overzealous, foolish, ignorant, or over the top.
That’s why I wore a Santa Claus suit today. I respect people who don’t embrace the idea, and I would never intentionally offend them. But I disagree with people who go over the top with name-calling like “Satan Claus” or who question the spiritual integrity of people who are having a little seasonal fun.
In the face of intractable problems plaguing our world it seems to me that wearing a Santa Claus suit for a couple of hours is pretty tame stuff.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005
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