Can Santa and Jesus coexist for Christians? 3 Oklahoma City-area clergy share their thoughts

It may be the December Dilemma that nobody talks about in polite conversation. Can Santa and Jesus coexist for Christians? Three Oklahoma City area pastors share their thoughts on the subject.
BY CARLA HINTON Published: December 21, 2013

It may be the December Dilemma that people rarely talk about.

It's not interfaith marriages and connections or Nativity scenes in public school. Nor is it the annual brouhaha over “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” greetings in area stores.

The argument stirring beneath the surface for many Christian families is whether the fictional Santa Claus popularized by modern culture should be introduced into the imaginations of children being raised to mark Christmas as the celebration of Christ's birth.

A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project found that Santa is very much a part of the Christmas traditions of many Americans.

“One-fifth of Americans say they are the parent or guardian of a child in their household who believes in Santa Claus,” a poll review stated on the center's website. Of that group, 69 percent said they participate in the tradition of a Christmas Eve visit by Santa Claus.

Several local pastors shared their thoughts on the subject.

The Rev. A. Byron Coleman, senior pastor of Fifth Street Baptist Church, 801 NE 5, said he thinks it's OK to share the story of Santa Claus with children, primarily because children typically lose the tendency to believe in the character as they grow older.

“I think many of us were raised being told fairy tales like the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Snow White and Alice and Wonderland, but those stories in no way, shape or form stayed with us as we grew older,” Coleman said. “So I don't have a problem with Santa Claus as long as we are telling them about the Gospel message at the same time.”

Coleman said the traditional stories and songs about Santa Claus are often tied to lessons about good behavior.

“What's wrong with telling a child ‘He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake. He knows when you've been bad or good so be good for goodness sake'?” Coleman said. “There's a moral clause behind that that doesn't overshadow Jesus. If it helps a child to improve his behavior, so be it.”

‘About love and giving'

The Rev. Mark Muenchow, senior pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church, 3600 Northwest Expressway, said much the same.

“I think it is OK, especially for little children, as long as we also communicate to them the whole reason for the season, the birth of Jesus Christ, the first and best ‘Christmas Gift' of all,” Muenchow said.

He said some parents may want to tell youths about St. Nicholas, a fourth-century Roman Catholic saint whose story eventually evolved into the Santa Claus of popular culture. Muenchow said though St. Nick's story has been “commercialized and skewed” somewhat, it can be used to lead children into the central message of Christmas, which is Christ and God's love for the world.

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