On September 21, 1897, the New York Sun published an editorial which began with: “Dear Editor—I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?” The letter was from a little girl named Virginia O’Hanlon. What was the response?
“Virginia, your little friends are wrong….” The editorial continued with a celebration of the concept of Santa Claus before ending with “No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”
Many people in the last century have read and re-read this article, perhaps to their children and grandchildren, and have been moved by the emotionally appealing prose. Yet we should consider if emotions are a trustworthy guide to follow, especially when we are entrusted with the responsibility of teaching young children to become God-fearing adults. As a father of three young boys I take this humbling responsibility very seriously, as I’m sure many other parents also do. Most of us have learned either through personal experience or observation that following a course of action based largely upon emotion is a fool’s errand. Why should we then give such heed to the emotional pulls associated with the Santa Claus myth and related untruthful traditions? In the battle between reason and emotion, should not reason win out? More importantly, what would our Savior, Jesus Christ, have us do and what does the Word of God say on this matter we call “truth?”
Most Jews and Christians give great honor and heed to the Ten Commandments spoken by God at Mt. Sinai. The ninth commandment prohibits bearing false witness, essentially lying. Deuteronomy 11:19 instructs us specifically to teach the Commandments to our children. How could a Christian teach his or her children the ninth commandment but then lie to them about Santa Claus?
Have you ever considered where the very principle of deception comes from?
Jesus Christ reveals that Satan is the original liar; “When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). On the other hand, Hebrews 6:18 tells us that God cannot lie!
If we search further in the Word of God, which itself is called truth (John 17:17), we find deeper guidance for our Christian conduct:
John 4:23: “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
This principle—that God must be worshiped in “spirit and truth”—is so important to Jesus Christ that He repeats it twice. Are we willing to worship God in just such fashion by rejecting all falsehoods that have found themselves a part of our religious life?
Let’s consider the ninth commandment and the importance of not mingling truth and falsehood in spiritual life as we read what are among Jesus Christ’s final words in the Bible.
Revelation 22:13: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”
Notice that our Savior clearly marks two categories of people. We would never want to fall into the second one, of those people who both love and practice lies.
Finally, as we consider the need to reject lies that human traditions have incorporated into the religious fabric of society we should not feel dejected, as if we are losing out on anything positive; just the opposite because learning to truly worship God “in spirit and truth” brings joy, satisfaction and blessings.