Jesus the Co-star?

christmas inflatable

I love driving in my neighborhood during the Christmas season to see it transform into a twinkling realm. This week I drove past a house displaying a giant blow-up Santa standing proud beside a sleigh. The jolly man bent to the left and right, hiding a quaint manger at the whim of the breeze. As the manger drifted in and out of view, I realized how this sight was a picture of our cultural relationship with Christmas.

Jesus is the reason for the season… but that’s not what I see displayed here, in the stores, or really in my own home. The story of a magical North Pole is hardly dangerous, but what does it mean when baby Jesus co-stars with a red-nose reindeer? In our culture, fictional characters mingle with historical figures, and we soon forget which stories are true.

We may believe that little harm will come in the mingling of characters and ideas, but if we allow the lines between fantasy and reality to blur, our children may become confused as to what is true about Christmas.

In Mama Bear Apologetics: Empowering Your Kids to Challenge Cultural Lies, Hillary Morgan Ferrer writes that “when our society messes with the definition of truth, it is messing with our kid’s very foundation of reality. If our children no longer feel comfortable using reality as their arbiter of truth, they will be insecure and timid about having any convictions whatsoever.”[1] How we deal with fantasy will play a vital role in how our children develop in their thinking and discernment. We teach our children to “take every thought captive” (2 Cor. 10:5) and examine those thoughts next to the truth of God’s Word to determine what is real and what is imaginary. It will feel uncomfortable at times to distinguish the two, but we cannot brush off the danger of making fairy tales into reality just because it’s what we grew up with or perhaps, it’s all we know to do.

Fairy tales provide wonder and allure, but they are only faint whispers of the REAL story. The historic Saint Nicholas images Christ’s kindness and generosity. We too can give thoughtful and generous gifts to others, but our packages are only a shadow of THE gift; God’s gift of redemption through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Unlike Santa, who only gives gifts to nice boys and girls, the real story is that God gave us his only son while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:1). We play a major role in helping our children make the connection between these smaller stories and the larger story of Jesus and what God is doing in the world.

As we put up our nativity scenes, open the daily advent calendar tabs, or read about the angels, wisemen, Mary, and Joseph, we need to help our children connect the Christmas story the whole story. We too often treat the Bible like just one of the storybooks on the shelf by keeping the characters siloed in their own stories. We isolate Jesus to a manger without considering he is eternal, without beginning or end. We tell the story of Jonah getting swallowed by the big whale or David defeating the giant, but we rarely connect those thrilling adventures to the larger narrative of the Bible.

When we handle God’s truth in this way, we are reinforcing the idea that Jesus, Jonah, and David are just… stories. The way we discuss the Word of God will shape how our children understand God’s reality.

We do not need to discard all fantasy and fairy tales, for they are of value as our children learn and grow. We don’t have to banish the jolly man and his presents but we should enjoy Santa in a minor role in a fictional story while we give the Biblical story the full weight and authority of truth. Our aim should be to equip our children with God’s truth and when we do so, we can enjoy the season without compromising reality.

[1] Ferrer, Hillary Morgan. Mama Bear Apologetics, page 70 (2019)

Angela Tiland has been involved with training Christians for over 15 years through her work with Worldview Academy. She mentors students, young adults, and moms through this ministry and also in her local church. Angela is involved in women’s ministry where she writes and teaches Bible studies. She readily opens her door to others and values genuine multi-generational relationships. Angela is a wife to her high school sweetheart, mom of three children, and calls Georgetown, Texas home.

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