Back in December there were a few posts on other blogs I follow (and blogs they follow, etc.) about teaching kids to believe in Santa. I thought a long time (its March) about why I teach [indoctrinate, deceive] my children to think that toys magically come from a fat man in a red suit. The answer is simple: Faith.
Children have the greatest faith. They believe in things that are good. They want to believe in the good. They still have faith that the world and the people in it are good. For children faith in Santa is simple: Santa is a good man who will bring gifts to me if I am good. Basic cause and effect.
The faith that we really want our kids to have is a lot more complicated than that. (Not that kids aren't capable of that kind of faith, it is just not as simple.) I see the faith in Santa as the simplest form of faith in Christ. Kids understand and want the reward that Santa is offering. That is not to diminish in any way the reward that Christ is offering, but eternal life with your family isn't as appealing (or as immediate) to a 5 year-old as the latest Thomas the Tank Engine.
Our faith in Christ isn't instantly rewarded the way our faith in Santa is. (Though my kids may argue waiting for Christmas takes an eternity.) Faith in Christ is rewarded more fully, more frequently, and for longer than faith in Santa.
Faith in Santa (for me) helps me get my kids to exercise their faith muscles.
- They believe in something they do not see.
- They make choices that affect the reward they receive.
- They exercise patience in gaining this reward.
- They are granted grace (kids aren't perfect)
- After much waiting, but at a pre-arrainged time, they are rewarded with something they really want.
And once they grasp the whole Santa concept, then having faith in something bigger and more complex becomes easier. Practicing our faith on Santa helps my kids truly have better faith in Christ.