To Santa or not to Santa....

This is a re-post from last year....just my thoughts on Santa.

From December 2010

Ugh. The season is upon us. The crazy, busy, relentless time of year when we have so many thing pulling us in many different directions and the most important, significant things--like, say the birth of Christ--is kept in the background.

I am all about keeping Christmas simple, however, the world around us makes it very difficult. And, unless you want to make your kids feel like they have been raised under a rock, I feel, we, to a certain degree, must choose to participate in the whirlwind ride that we now know as Christmas. I am mainly talking about the expectations like, gifts for people, going to open houses, Christmas parties galore and eating lots of food that is just not that good for us.

You know, I would really love to write some meaningful, significant prose about the true meaning of Christmas. The reason will celebrate. I would hope that by writing about it, it would turn our hearts back to Christ and the simplicity of the season. But the thing is there are lots of books out there that tell you to do that. You can read scripture and be reminded of the humble beginnings of our Lord and Savior. The reason for the season.

But for me, I realize that unless I have a heart change about the season, it's really not going to make anything different. It's not going to make the Christmas carol we sing in church become any more alive. Where is the awe and the wonder? The magic and hope?

In that same respect, taking all commercial aspects of Christmas out of my house will not make me worship the Savior any more than keeping them in will. It still has to do with the heart.

This leads me to something I have wanted to write about for a while. Hopefully, no one will take offense. I am not saying one view point is right and one is wrong (because it is a personal decision). I can't quote scripture or tell you how you should celebrate Christmas in your home. There are arguments on both sides of the issue.

However, that being said, I really don't understand why Santa gets such a bad rap? Taking Santa, or any other commercial aspect of this season, out of the picture is not really going to change my heart. I can be just as in love with Jesus and tell my boys about Santa and go take them to get their picture made with him every year (which I do). I don't worry that by telling them about Santa they are just going to remember me lying to them....and if I lie to them about this fable, then, what's keeping me from lying about something else? Like God's love.

Please. Let me tell you, I grew up in one of the most legalistic church environments ever. I mean, I had no idea that God's grace was sufficient, but I did know that if I sinned he was keeping track of those and holding them against me (which is not true, but it was my perception). And lots of things counted as sin, or "worldly", such as wearing pants, listening to secular music....even listening to certain CHRISTIAN music was taught against. So, I know a thing or two about legalism.

I don't remember what our church taught about Santa growing up? If there was an opinion given, I have no idea now what it was. I did have friends whose parents rejected any commercial aspect of Christmas and refused to celebrate it, including having a tree and if you had to get them a gift, please get them underwear. Heaven forbid you actually have fun thinking about your family and get something meaningful. That was just too "worldly". We were fundamentalists, we had standards to uphold. LOL!

In my house, we believed in Santa. I can remember our first Christmas in Tennessee, maybe the second. Family was visiting from Florida and my cousin and I were looking out the window on Christmas Eve looking for Santa and his reindeer. I remember the presents from Santa and baking the cookies and seeing if the cookies were gone Christmas morning. I remember the excitement. The wonder. The memories.

However, Santa always had his place and he was never the center of attention, Jesus was. We talked more about Jesus birth and the reason for the season than we ever did about Santa. Santa was part of the celebration, but he wasn't the main event. Jesus was. And that's all I want to be able to do for my children. I don't feel like I need to take Santa out of the picture to draw them closer to Jesus.

I have an almost five year old that is full of questions. Believe me, he wants to know why we celebrate Christmas. And we tell him. We tell him the true meaning. We share with him the Christmas story. We bake a cake for Jesus the week of Christmas. He knows the songs about Jesus in a manger and why Jesus came, which was because of His great love for US. So, I get excited when Carter talks about Jesus. Jesus is the primary focus of the season in our house. But until Carter asks Jesus into his heart, he is not going to get the true meaning of Christmas, of Christ's birth. And more importantly, why He came as He did, to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins and to do what no other self-proclaimed savior has done....rise from the dead.

But I have to say that as we were decorating the Christmas tree the other day and night had fallen and Carter looked out the window and said, " I wonder if we can see Santa up in the sky" my heart melted. The excitement. The wonder. The belief in Santa. I loved it. It didn't break my heart because we had already been talking about Jesus. Those seeds have been planted and my prayer is that when the time is right, Carter will come to know Christ, preferably at a young age.

I don't remember when I stopped believing in Santa. It obviously wasn't that traumatic. I have never felt lied to or deceived by my parents for telling me about this fairy tale. It was fun. It had it's place. And it is magical.

I never, ever tell Carter that he better be good because Santa is watching. I don't ever use getting Christmas presents as a way to control my son's behavior. In fact, I cringe when parents do that. That is one aspect I don't agree with. Good behavior should be expected regardless of the season and it should be learned, not used as a bribe. I want my kid to learn self-control from the heart, not because Santa won't bring him any presents if he misbehaves.

The thing is, I respect my friends or people I know who choose not to make Santa part of their kids lives. I mean, who am I to tell you that you are overreacting? There is no right or wrong answer here. I guess the most important thing to remember in all of it is the HEART. Because no matter how holy you think you are making Christmas, if you just take away things and don't focus on the heart, then all you are doing is making a statement for the purpose of being different. And being different doesn't make you holy. Having a relationship with Jesus Christ makes you holy.

So, that's my feeling about Santa. I think he has his place. He is not the centerpiece. Having Santa in the celebration of Christmas doesn't make me any closer to the Lord, just as leaving him out doesn't bring me any closer to the Lord. The heart is the matter.

Returned from Haiti

Hi everyone,

I cannot believe the whole month of December has passed and I have not posted here. I have had a lot on my mind and I am going to be sharing it in the next few weeks....on a more regular basis.

Today, I wanted to talk about Haiti and share my blog post that I posted for my church. I will also share our other team members blogs from that week. In case you have forgotten, I went to Haiti on a mission trip with my church December 10-16th. We served in an orphanage that is supported by our church.

I hope it will give you an insight into Haiti. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people that are in great, dire need. Especially the children, who are the innocent ones to suffer from man's corrupt nature.

Here is a look into our week.

December Team Update
Here is the first update from our December Haiti team. They are sharing the Good News with our kids this week! Please pray for them as they teach the children about the birth of our Savior! Susan Mayo wrote the post below, this is her first mission trip to Haiti.

My first day in Jeremie, Haiti By: Susan Mayo

I have been asked to write about my first day in Haiti. I was quite apprehensive about coming. I am married and have two small children. My husband, Greg, came on a construction team three months after the earthquake, so I had seen his pictures and heard his stories. Still, being a mom and leaving small children to travel internationally to a third world country, I had to really consider the risks and benefits. That’s how I looked at it anyway. I have lives dependent on me and I love them very much. But God made it clear that this was the trip for me. Despite all the apprehension I decided to go, trusting the Lord and His leading.

Even though I have never been to a third world country, I have seen poverty. I have seen hungry children living in squalor, it just happened to be in the United States. I am a counselor and one of my first jobs out of grad school had me going into homes providing intensive therapy to families. Most of these families were poor. Obviously, the poor in Haiti are much poorer, much more in need. But, with each job that I took I found myself in homes that were in very shady and dangerous parts of town, and communities where there was great need. I always worked with children, who were reaping the consequences of difficult life based on lack of resources, education and poor choices.

I am saying all this because I felt I had been exposed to poverty and had a pretty good idea what that looked like and I think that prepared me for this trip somewhat better than others who have never been exposed to poverty. And with that exposure comes a bit of a hardened heart. Call it protection, call it callousness, but there is an outer coating to the heart that comes year after year of working with those in need. Otherwise, your heart breaks over and over again, and you have a job to do and sometimes the feelings can be overwhelming so you look at it very business like, learning how not to feel the pain of others. I mean the Bible tells us the poor will always be with us, right? So do what you can and what you have been called to do, but don’t get too close.

But even with all that protection built up, nothing can prepare you for children whose bellies are protruding from hunger. I had worked with hungry children in America, but they had a school system that fed them at least two meals a day. And even though I have worked with homeless children, we have an organized government that at least attempts to provide for those with less resources and access to education. There are also programs, ministries, soup kitchens, nonprofits, etc. There is still a need, but at least we have an organized way of providing for those in need.

In Haiti, there is no safety net. There is no government that attempts to look out for it’s own. From what I understand it is corrupt. So, people are so poor that poor doesn’t even describe what they are. Abject poverty doesn’t really seem to cover it either. They are people. Human lives. And they are hungry. They are dirty and live in conditions that I find repulsive. No running water. No electricity. I saw sewage running in the street along with all the trash because they don’t have any ways to dispose of their waste. Hungry, malnourished children were visible at every corner. This was both in Port Au Prince and the city of Jeremie, which is where Long Hollow’s orphanage is located.

Then we went to the orphanage. That is a very overwhelming experience. The children rushed the bus. Eager to love and be loved on. I have never experienced anything like that. And as I walked through the orphanage, I was amazed that this is considered the “good life” for them. They have a place to stay, food to eat, people to care for them and more importantly, they learn about Jesus. But, it’s not the Ritz. I think someone referred to it as the “Haitian Ritz” last night. I mean, it isn’t much, but it is one hundred times better than if they were living on the street.

The children are dirty and they smell. But I didn’t care. I was covered in dirt from head to toe when I left that orphanage and that was nothing compared to what filth these children had lived in before coming to the orphanage. Here they could bathe and have different clothes to change into. They have food every day. They are in school, learning. And they learn about Jesus every day. Even though they don’t have an earthly father they now have the opportunity to personally know an eternal Father who will never leave them or forsake them, no matter what lot in life they have been given.

To us it might not seem like much, but to them it’s everything. I am still soaking everything in. Processing it. I am open, ready for God to move in my heart; the same heart that I have been attempting to protect for so long. He brought me here for a reason, I know this, and I don’t want to mess this up. So, I continue to watch, listen and wait. But I have a feeling I’m not going to have to look very far for my object lesson.