Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (NIV)

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”  1 John 2:15-17 (NIV)

Working in preschool ministry, I get an interesting perspective of Santa at Christmas time.  Leading worship, it is my goal to encourage the preschoolers to get more excited about Jesus than anything else in their life. When I ask the preschoolers what they are excited about at Christmas time, this is what I often hear…

“Santa comes to my house and brings me lots of toys!” 

“I leave Santa milk and cookies.” 

“We have an elf that visits us, and if we are good, he leaves us treats!” 

“I got to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what I want for Christmas.”

The enemy hates it when God is glorified, so I believe he has influenced our culture to glorify other things that distract us from putting God first in our lives.  He makes these things look good and not harmful, so even as Christian parents, we often get wrapped up in them as well!

I DO, however, hear another group of kids saying…

“It’s Jesus’ birthday!”

Others chime in and remind the class, “Jesus is the most important thing about Christmas!”

They talk about their nativity sets, the baby Jesus in their yards, and the birthday cakes they are making for Jesus’ birthday.

So, the question becomes, how do we raise kids to be like the second group who really DO think more about Jesus than Santa at Christmas time? 

I think the answer is quite simple.  The more we focus on Santa, The Elf on the Shelf, etc., the more our kids will become drawn to those things over Jesus.   

The world does a pretty good job of presenting the “magic of Christmas” to our children. You don’t have to walk too far down the street to see a blow-up Santa or roll your grocery cart too far down the isle without someone asking your kids what Santa is bringing them for Christmas.

So how can we put Jesus first at Christmas time?  I believe there are many ways to do this.  

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10 Ways to Put Jesus First at Christmas

  1. Buy a play nativity set when your children are young and act out the story of Jesus’ birth while you play with your children.

  2. Go through a Christmas or Advent devotional leading up to Christmas day.

  3. Encourage excitement about Jesus’ birthday. Make a countdown or use a nativity calendar and make a cake for Him on Christmas.

  4. Talk about WHY Jesus is so special and remind your children of the gospel- the REASON Jesus came as a baby in a manger.

  5. Listen to Christmas songs that bring Jesus glory, and talk about their meaning.

  6. Read Christmas books that bring Jesus glory.

  7. Watch more movies related to Jesus’ birth than Santa and his reindeer.

  8. Teach your children about the REAL Santa, St. Nicolas, and learn how he glorified God with his generous heart.

  9. If you do celebrate Santa, talk about how Jesus is most important at Christmas time.

  10. Think of three “gifts” you can get Jesus for Christmas like the wise men did. (three ways you can serve others so Jesus may be glorified)

My husband and I personally never felt peace about telling our children that Santa was real or acting like he brings them gifts, when in reality he does not.  We have made a concerted effort to put Jesus first and down-play Santa, and I am thankful that our kids have always gotten most excited about Jesus’ birthday each year. 

I know we all have our own past experiences with Santa, and for many of you, sentimental memories of Santa and other traditions may be close to your heart.  I am not trying to tell you to get rid of Santa altogether or judge others who make Santa a part of their Christmas traditions.  We all may feel a little differently on the issue. But I know we can all agree as Christian parents that we don’t want Santa, or anything else for that matter,  to become more important than Jesus in our children’s hearts. 

We all need to check our hearts and ask God what we can do (and not do) to keep Jesus first this holiday season. He alone knows what is best for our children and how to balance cultural traditions with bringing Him glory at Christmas time. 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14