My daughters are teens now, but not too many years ago there was that fateful day when I had to break the news to them about Santa Claus. It was my oldest daughter’s turn first. I took her out to lunch, and as we were eating, I told her that it was her dad and I that put presents under the tree on Christmas Eve.
“What?” she gasped. “You lied to me? Santa isn’t real?!” She was quite confused, and more than a little upset.
“No, I didn’t lie, and Santa is real. He’s just not a man in a red suit with a sleigh,” I said, and launched into my explanation as I stared into my daughter’s accusatory glare.
Santa is the Spirit of Giving. He is the purest way to experience receiving gifts, simply because you are good and you are loved, without knowing who they were from or why you deserve them. Santa is pure Giving. If you know that a gift is from a friend or a relative, this changes the dynamic. It is no longer pure, but colored by the giver. Children expect presents under the tree from parents and friends. If a parent gives a child a gift, there is no mystery there. The parent gave the child a gift, because they are loved and would, of course, never dream of denying their child something on Christmas. But Santa Claus has no such chains of commitment. He appears out of nowhere, is unattached to the child, and simply deposits gifts out of love and the spirit of giving. It is a pure and untainted gift.
We want our children to know what charity looks like. Charity is to be done without fanfare or credit. Matthew 6:2-4 tells us: “When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
Giving is to be done secretly, with no praise or reciprocation expected. The feeling of receiving a gift from an unknown source is pure happiness and gratitude. There is no thought attached about who it came from, when you can thank them, why they were so generous, or what you need to give them in return. The mysterious gift is accepted as such. To make this point even more clearly, we can see that Santa Claus also extends beyond children and Christmas morning. He can be experienced at the layaway counter in stores, where a father goes to pay for his child’s gifts only to find that they have been paid for by an unknown source. Santa can be experienced at food banks, where unnamed neighbors have donated supplies to their fellow man. He can be experienced at maternity wards where new mothers receive handmade blankets from unknown crafters. Santa is the pure Spirit of Giving, unrestrained by any earthly attachments. The importance giving is stated in Acts 20:35: “In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
It is for this reason that parents employ Santa’s spirit on Christmas Eve. What better way to have your child experience the spirit of giving and the feeling that it brings when something is received from an unknown source, for no other reason than love? And when it comes time to reveal that parents were the vehicle through which this spirit worked, we should not taint the message and erase the past feelings by taking credit for Santa’s work. No, we should explain that we were simply the vehicle and that Santa (in other words, Love, or God) is the real spirit. This can then lead to conversations of ultimate sacrifice and ultimate giving, as summarized in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” My dear friends, the Spirit of Giving, and therefore Santa Claus, is real. And if the Spirit of Giving is real, then so, too, is God’s love for his children.
The conversation with my daughter ended in her understanding that, in order to help her experience the true nature of pure and unattached giving, her father and I employed Santa Claus for the job. This giving spirit comes directly from God, who loves His children in a similar way as Santa loves children, purely for their own sake. Long live Santa Claus! May the spirit of charity never die!