Like so many American parents, I dutifully taught my children all about the wonders of this mysteriously person called “Santa Claus. Each Christmas, about a week prior, they became the children every parent wanted. Polite, non-demanding, bed-making, toy-cleaning-uppers.
We went to the malls for the kids to tell “Santa Claus” what they wanted for Christmas.
And they expected those gifts to be put under the tree every year.
After all, wasn’t that what Santa did?
Then, one year, my oldest did the unexpected. When she didn’t get the present under the tree that she’d asked for, she turned to me and asked why not. She wouldn’t accept the answer that Santa had to clear every present with the parents (a hopeful distraction from the conversation).
“If Santa Claus has a workshop filled with little elf workers, and he can get make anything we want, then why can’t I have the electric car I wanted?”
She’d reached the inevitable age of reason.
So I finally had to explain to her that Santa wasn’t real. The gifts that the kids got were from their parents. And I didn’t have the money to buy such a costly item.
She turned to me with those large blue eyes of hers and said, “Why do parents lie to their children?”
She was about 5.
Smart kid. I told her she’d become a lawyer one day.
A lot of parents would think this a cruel thing to do to such a little one. But to a parent who doesn’t have a large income, the pressure to keep up the lie is enormous.
And a lie it is.
I had never viewed it from that standpoint before. Just like the costumes and handouts of Halloween, we had been raising children to expect to be given whatever their little animal-like hearts desired.
“Ask and ye shall receive; knock and ye shall find” became the clarion cry of those little children who are now adults.
Completely taken out of the spiritual context for which those words were uttered.
Those little children who were raised to believed in such things got the idea that whatever they wanted and asked for and never told the reality of the situation, expected to be given whatever they wanted.
Those very same children are now the demanding adults of today.
Santa Claus became god to them. A person of from whom they could ask and he would grant their every wish. A giant genie in the sky.
They transliterated those concepts to the God Who created them. The ones who practice “the Prosperity Gospel” is a good example of Christian perceptions gone awry. God is a slot machine, giving them money and goods, instead of realizing that He wants the increased perfection of their souls, not their increases in material wealth.
These lovers of the worldly goods take what they hear literally, no matter the facts laid out before them.
Ditto with the secular groups who still think they deserve to get whatever they want just because they asked for it. Only their god is the government. Like those who train their children to believe in the lies of Santa Claus, they fail to realize that, like the poor parents, the government takes the hard earned money from taxpayers to give into the demands of these people.
So who is Santa Claus, really?
His fame was his generosity to those in need. Many stories exist if his acts of generosity. Some of the most famous are still revered here.
Three young girls he helped were so that the very poor father and his three girls would not suffer humiliation. On another occasion, he rescued a slave from being sold by trading his horse for the sake of that human life in order to set him free.
Bishop Nicholas gave in acts of Charity for the greater good of others.
Now, we give to keep the kids quiet, make them behave, reward them for good behavior. Not because these things are good in and of themselves. But for altruistic reasons that don’t necessarily benefit the growth of the child.
Next time you are tempted to ask for the sake of getting, think about your own motive. Is it something you actually need, or is it something you want? What is the root cause of that learned behavior?
And should you be even thinking along those lines?
The “Ask and ye shall receive” sometimes applies to material needs – food, shelter, clothing, etc.
But mostly it applies to spiritual growth.
And what is being asked may not always be given. Especially if it will give harm to the individual’s spiritual walk down the road.
God is a good God. He, like a loving father, will never give to his children things that will cause them harm.
Perhaps it’s time to rethink our stories we tell our children as well.
This is, after all, not the season to get things.
It is the season that God gave us His Son.
What greater gift could we ever ask for?