Seer Children, Father Christmas, Santa and the Three Kings

From “The Father Christmas Letters,” by J.R.R. Tolkien

A couple years ago on this night, I revealed to my seer child that Santa Claus was not “real.”

In many cultures, parents participate in the mythical idea of a creature called Santa or Father Christmas (in some countries, it’s the Three Kings) who brings presents to good girls and boys on Christmas morning. Particulars of course vary.

The idea of someone bringing gifts on Christmas morning probably stems from combining the biblical account of magi unexpectedly showing up at baby Jesus’ house and presenting three gifts to his family, with a “do good because God is watching” and “train up a child in the way he should go” theology. None of that is untrue, although the practice in the Santa myth possibly is a distortion of the truth.

Christmas: A Story of the Supernatural impacting the Natural!

The Christmas story is a remarkable example of the supernatural interacting with the natural and with many of the participants in the story being motivated to action by seeing and hearing angels. Christmas is all about seers!

I’ll break down what goes unsaid in the biblical accounts of Christmas later this month.

But what about Santa, Father Christmas or the Three Kings magically bringing gifts to children on Christmas? Is this a harmful myth? Or, as some angry parents wrote to me in years past, how can it be wise to lie to our children?

Telling Your Seer Child the Truth About Santa

Because our daughter could readily see and thus believe in fantastic elements of the spirit realm, in truth my wife and I wrestled with the wisdom of participating in the myth of Santa Claus. I’m not particularly convinced we chose the best course of action, but also I don’t regret our choices. In other words, I’m open to being wrong in this. Our daughter (now in Middle School) isn’t mad about our playing along with Santa, but she is still mad I told her the “truth.” Still.

(The main reason we told her was because most of her peers at that age no longer believed and we wanted to protect her from being made fun of. Her point: I don’t go around telling people I can see spirits, so why would I talk about Santa? Hmmm? … What can you do? She’s a preteen girl, and so she’s always right… ha.)

You can read how we struggled with it in part 1 here and how I broke the news to my daughter and her reaction in part 2 here.

You’ll see how she easily layered her belief in Santa into her theology. For her, angels and demons are as real as you and me, and so it made perfect sense that God would send a particular angel called Santa Claus or Father Christmas with physical gifts.

Why not? We see prayers to an invisible God manifest in physical healings on a regular basis. We’ve even prayed over our broken down van before and saw it fixed. Recently, my daughter prayed for someone’s warped foot to straighten and it did (someone even caught it on video). She squealed with excitement but was not particularly surprised. The supernatural is real, after all. We still live in Bible times.

The Father Christmas Letters, By J.R.R. Tolkien

The Father Christmas Letters, By J.R.R. Tolkien

False Tales and True Myths

As explained in those posts, I have come to recognize my culture is based on many myths that people choose to believe in, and prefer not to think deeper about.  Myths include the belief in popular sovereignty, and that American soldiers fight for the freedoms of Americans (this is arguable of course, but I’d suggest the only threat to American freedoms these days come from American politicians and mega-corporations…). But myths are important and promote good activity (e.g., it’s good to vote and honor soldiers and especially those killed in service to their country… and it’s good for little boys and girls to behave and obey their parents).

Space operas, like the original Star Wars trilogy, and fantasy films and novels, like those by J.R.R. Tolkien, also create myths that shape our thinking and beliefs.  J.R.R. Tolkien and his friend C.S. Lewis argued that fairy tales were stories that involved the supernatural and the natural, and myths were fairy tales that included an element of truth.  In other words, all ancient myths conveyed some kind of truth.

But one story that involved the supernatural and the natural, one myth, was absolutely true. And this of course is the story of God intervening in the affairs of the world on multiple occasions to bring us Jesus Christ, as revealed on the canon of scripture.  This is a myth that is true.

C.S. Lewis famously said,

“Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths: i.e., the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call ‘real things’.”

For more on this, consider Tolkien’s On Fairy Stories and C.S. Lewis’, God in the Dock .

With this in mind, I consider that the fairy tale of Santa is a useful myth if reasonably applied to explore the love and grace of God and the benefit of behaving. Reasonable people, of course, may disagree.

When you become aware of the cosmic conflict of the Kingdoms and open your eyes to the supernatural, you begin to see the yearning in the hearts of believers for a God who loves them and wants to change and rescue them. And you begin to see truths being revealed in all sorts of fairy tales.

In my next post, I’ll look at how the movie Elf is both a Fairy Story and also a Myth.

In the meantime, parents, make up your own mind about what fantasies and myths you want to tell your young children, but never forget the myth that is true.

Comments

  1. Lewis talks a lot about all of these myths stem from seeds planted by God, desires of the heart, that the reality of Christ fulfills. Our imagination helps us reach for and connect with our God who is outside of the bounds of space and time.

    But Santa Claus isn’t a myth. The Americanized version created by Washington Irving was given mythic elements. The commerciality of the whole thing caused that myth to expand.

    But the myth is based on a very real person who played a very real role in the history of the church. Nicholas of Myra was a warrior for Christ who set out to completely perform the Great Commission by giving to the poor, healing the sick, and raising the dead. There is an account that he brought down a pagan temple through the power of prayer.

    Your daughter was close to the truth, but Nicholas is not an angel, he is a saint . . . Part of that great cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 12:1 that is watching to see how the rest of the story plays out.

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