“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” – Ephesians 5:11
“Santa is BOGUS! Jesus is the reason for the season.” What do you think about that statement? Too harsh? Too intrusive? Too belligerent? Not in tune with the Christmas spirit? Maybe your thinking, “What a Scrooge!” Or maybe you’re ready with response to “Santa-haters,” that explains ole St. Nick was really a Christian who did a lot of good. Before you pass judgment hear me out. This is not a mean-spirited message. It is something I hope provokes you to examine the reason for the season.
“Santa is BOGUS! -Jesus is the reason for the season.” That’s something I taught my children and now share with my grandchildren. My wife and I always felt it was important to be truthful with our children. If we lied to our kids about Santa, when they discovered we lied to them about him, then they might think, “Well, if mommy and daddy lied to me about Santa, are they lying to me about Jesus?” So, we always tried to be truthful with them and teach them to be truthful too. Truth and truthfulness is important in life. We wanted them to be able to make a distinction between fantasy and reality. The reality of Jesus is far greater than any fantasy of Satan, I mean Santa.
“Bogus,” is a word that means not genuine or true; fake. Why is it such a big deal that Santa be exposed as fake? I speak here, with a good portion of my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. (I always smile when I say, “Santa is BOGUS!”) But there is a valuable and essential principle of truth telling here that is important to recognize. I’m not some delusional, Santa-hating, reindeer kicking, elf smacking, nut case. I’m simply someone who values the beauty and holiness and magnificent true message of Christmas. I’m simply one who has been blessed with the true reason for the season. And I want others to experience that too.
There’s a portion of scripture that the LORD has impressed upon me to emphasize and live by in the last few years. The verse is found in Ephesians and states, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). This has become a life verse for me. The foremost way to expose darkness is with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But there are other lesser dark entities that need exposing if we are to have the opportunity to share that gospel.
It would be hard to miss the reality of so much disinformation circulating in the world today. As we draw closer to the return of Jesus, the devil seems to have turned up the heat. The devil is described by Jesus as “murderer,” he is out to destroy people. The devil “does not stand for truth.” Jesus said he doesn’t stand for truth “because there is no truth in him.” Jesus continued, “When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). The devil, Satan, is the father of lies. When we note that devilish nature and then couple it with Paul’s warnings about the “latter times,” in which, “some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirit and doctrines of demons,” we understand a bit more of the causes of the proliferations of deception (1 Timothy 4:1). Christmas is a time of bright colorful lights. But some of those lights can blind us to a more profound and valuable truth.
Deception is diversionary. What I mean when I say that is that, deception doesn’t usually involve a contrast between worst and best, it involves a choice between better and best. Deception gets our eyes off of God’s best for us. And the tactic the devil uses is to divert our attention from God’s best to something else, even something “good.” Santa and his elves, reindeer, bag of gifts, Christmas trees, tinsel, ornaments, holly wreaths, candy canes, gumdrops, ginger bread men (and women), and all pretty good things. But that “good” can keep us from God’s best.
We find a lot of diversion in tactical strategies used in various stations of life. It’s a common hereditary part of nature. Deception through diversion seems to come easy to us. It’s a part of our nature. It seems to be a part of nature itself.
The Deep-Sea Anglerfish is an ugly fish. No other fish would be tempted to come near it based on looks alone. It’s a scary looking fish. But God created this fish with a long stringy appendage that has a piece of flesh formed on its tip in the shape of bait. The Angler simply swims around stealthily with its long lure and bait and gobbles up those who no doubt, were looking for an easy meal. The devil often dangles an “easy meal,” in front of us, and when we take the bait, he gobbles us up. Don’t take the bait. Feed on the nourishing truth of God’s word.
In boxing there’s the Rope-a-Dope of Muhammed Ali. Ali lured George Foreman, a monster of a man, into pummeling him for the better part of eight rounds. It was all a deceptive tactic of Ali. He let Foreman tire himself out with bombs of blows. Then in the eighth round, Foreman so spent he could hardly keep his hands up, Ali unleashed a barrage that brought Foreman to the canvas. The devil often tires us out by getting us to pound away. He gets us to focus on and fight the wrong target. The Bible says very clearly, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age” (Ephesians 6:12). The devil gets us beating on each other. He Rope-a-Dopes us. Then when we expend our strength in fighting with each other, he knocks us out with depression, discouragement or good old exhaustion. Don’t be a dope. Expose the darkness.
Well, what about Santa? Santa is a jolly old fella. I remember my mother playing the Burl Ives version of A Holly Jolly Christmas (by John David Marks) incessantly during Christmas. Christmas in the Stauffer household was all about the music. “Have a holly jolly Christmas, it’s the best time of the year, I don’t know if there’ll be snow, but have a cup of cheer.” Then, “Have a holly jolly Christmas, and when you walk down the street, say hello to friends you know, and everyone you meet.” And there’s more about mistletoe and kissing people and it’s a lot of jolly stuff. Seems harmless enough, right? Look at me, I didn’t turn out so bad. Ho, ho, ho, I love Jesus. Hey, Santa gives kids gifts. What’s bad about that? But there’s a number of reasons why we should see Santa as bogus. Let me share them with you.
First, “And have no fellowship with.” Remember why Jesus came. The Bible says, “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The word, “destroy” (Greek luo) means loosen, loose, break up, break down, destroy, dissolve, melt, put off. In light of that word, maybe it’s time we let Santa go the way of Frosty the Snowman. Maybe it’s time to let Santa melt away. Maybe it’s time to break down the image of Santa some of us have in our homes and break it up. Maybe it’s time to not only put him off, but destroy him and any deceptions associated with him. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, and that includes deceptions.
Second, “the unfruitful works of darkness.” The “Santa” of today’s marketing empire is built on deception. And wherever there is deception you can be sure the father of lies is at work. Nothing good comes from lies. The works of darkness are “unfruitful” (Greek akarpos). “Unfruitful” means barren, fruitless, without fruit. Relying on or allowing ourselves to be a part of darkness, in any way, is not going to be fruitful. Darkness, in any form, is not going to lead to eternal spiritual fruit. In fact, darkness is going to weave rottenness into our lives and heart. The child that is lied to about Santa learns to doubt the word of their parents and other authority figures. Deception produce doubt. Truth produces trust.
Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). The word “sanctify” (Greek hagiadzo) means to make holy, purify, consecrate, hallow. The idea here is separation. To be sanctified by God’s truth means to be set apart to God’s truth. It also then implies to be set apart from non-truth or falsehood. As a follower of Jesus, we should want nothing to do with falsehood. Going back to Ephesians, we are exhorted, “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25). We have a responsibility to speak truthfully with people. We don’t have to be battering rams or bludgeons with truth. But we shouldn’t be serpentine with deceptions either. Jesus is all about truth. He came to speak and testify to truth (John 18:37). Therefore, we should do the same. We speak truth in love. We speak truth because we care for people. That is the true spirit of Christmas.
Third, “but rather expose them.” It’s a matter of truth; it’s a matter of love. Don’t take this message, put “Santa is BOGUS!” on a placard, and go out looking for Santa’s on the street corner to beat into submission. They are probably just poor fellows trying to earn a buck. But there is a truth to be applied here.
The qualifier is how truth is shared. We should always speak truth in love. The Bible says we should be, “speaking the truth in love,” so that we may all, “grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). The greatest truth of Christmas is that Jesus is the reason for the season. Anything that distracts our attention from that holy message or diverts our attention from Jesus to common things, is something we need to expose. We should always be trying to draw closer to Jesus in fellowship with Him, and distance ourselves from fellowship with anything dark and deceitful. But our message should be in love.
The love we speak in is love from the Spirit. Such love is powerful. It comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit in the born-again believer (Romans 5:5). It is something produced in us by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). We are ambassadors of Christ. And as such, we are to be governed by and agents of His love (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-21). We are supposed to be known as Christians by our love (John 13:35). Truth spoken without love is a jagged rusty harmful edged hatchet. But truth spoken in love becomes a razor-sharp scalpel that performs life-saving spiritual surgery (Ephesian 6:17).
When I was growing up my parents would go to great lengths to perpetuate the fantasy of Santa. I remember one year my dad even made tracks in the snow with his car outside our house. When I arose the next morning and asked if Santa had come, he pointed me to the tracks and said, “See, there’s the tracks from his sleigh in the snow.” That impressed me.
As I grew older, I began to notice some inconsistencies though. I began to wonder how could Santa travel to kids all over the world, in one night, and deliver toys to all of them, from one bag? How could a sleigh fly? How could reindeer fly? I was told it was “magic.” That only raised more questions.
How did Rudolph’s nose shine red? Why did Santa always eat all the cookies? I wondered about a lot things connected with Santa. My mind was working overtime to figure it all out. Then I caught my dad in the basement moving some presents. That made me very suspicious. “Hey dad, what you doing?” In retrospect I’m pretty impressed with my dad’s fast thinking. He told me Santa had been in a hurry so he could only drop off the presents on the porch. My dad was helping him out moving them to the basement. “Why the basement dad?” I’m sure my dad thought, “Just shut up kid or I’m going to ruin your life forever.” I never did get an answer. As I got older, I had more and more questions. And I could tell my parents had fewer and fewer answers.
I don’t know when it was, but eventually, I stopped believing in Santa. I do know I was a little upset with my parents for lying to me. It fed a feeling of rebellion and distrust between child and parent. I didn’t simply take them at their word from that point on. I was suspicious toward them. A trust had been broken. When they took me and later made me go to church, I was skeptical. I had a “prove it” attitude with my parents and with all authority. Unfortunately, I didn’t run into anyone who could prove Jesus to me until I was twenty-one. Years were wasted. The Lord has restored them (Joel 2:25). And God has brought good even from the lies of Santa (Romans 8:28). But looking back, I wish it had been different. The blessing of it all is God has taught me, “Santa is BOGUS! Jesus is the reason for the season.” That’s the truth!
Now some will say suspicion and checking out answers to questions is a good part of life. We should have a healthy inquisitive nature to life. That’s how we learn. Some would say the fakery of Santa builds a child’s imagination. I would respond, “Maybe, but not at the expense of the bond of trust between a parent and child.”
We should always trust our parents. We get our first image and understanding of God from our parents. We learn what our heavenly Father is, in part from who our earthly father is. We learn God’s tenderness and kindness from our mother. We learn justice, mercy and grace from our parents. We get, or should get, our first taste of truth, from our parents. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Parents, you are a bedrock foundation for your children. Parents, your children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3). They aren’t yours. They are on loan from the Lord. We own no one. Only God is in a position to “own” someone. We are to train our children and help them to know the LORD (e.g. Deuteronomy 6). One day we will have to release our children into the world. Then they become a heritage of godliness; a link in successive generations who pass on the holy truth of God. Our children are one means of fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
Parent, and those who oversee children, whatever circumstance you are in, you are on the front line of the battlefield for the minds and hearts of the children God has entrusted to you. Will you teach them the truth of God’s word? Will you teach them to be truthful by being truthful to them? First impressions are important. What impression will you leave on your children?
So, do you see why I taught my children and later grandchildren that, “Santa is BOGUS! Jesus is the reason for the season”? When I take my grandkids shopping or to the store with me during Christmas season, we have a lot of fun watching the expressions change on the cashier’s face or other kindly pro-Santa people’s faces when we tell them, “Santa is BOGUS!” They expect us to be pro-Santa. They expect us to be proponents of the lie. We aren’t harsh or mean about it. But we do tell them nicely, “Santa is BOGUS!” We do it part in jest. We, and they, have fun with it. But humor can disarm people. Humor can prepare people to receive truth. People usually smile and receive our message of Jesus. And to this day, we’ve not encountered any weeping children brokenhearted over the truth that “Santa is BOGUS!”
Jesus really is the reason for the season. Nothing we do should divert people’s attention from that magnificent truth. Nothing we do should impede or distract people from looking unto Jesus. In fact, if you’d like to receive Jesus, God’s greatest gift, as your Savior right now, here’s a prayer you can pray. Forgiveness for your sins and the eternal life God offers you through faith in Jesus Christ, is only a prayer away. Pray:
Dear Father in heaven, I come to You in Jesus name.
I admit my sins to you. My sins have separated me from You.
I don’t deserve Your forgiveness. I deserve to die eternally because of my sins.
But right now, I turn from my sins, and ask Your forgiveness.
I don’t ask on the basis of any good works or efforts of my own.
I ask Your forgiveness based on Jesus.
I believe Jesus died on the cross for me, to pay by debt of sin.
Right now, I accept Jesus by faith as my Savior.
By faith, I accept Your forgiveness. I receive it as a gift of your grace.
Holy Spirit, please come into me and give me spiritual life.
Help me to live for You.
Thank You, Father, Son Jesus, and Holy Spirit, for the hope of living eternally with You, through faith in Jesus Christ.
In Jesus’ name. Amen
If you prayed that prayer, tell someone about it. Pray and read your Bible regularly. Find a church where the Bible is taught and where you can grow in your faith. And if you feel moved by the Spirit, tell someone, “Did you know, ‘Santa is BOGUS!’?” You just might be able to share about God’s greatest gift, and the true reason for this season, Jesus. God bless you all. In Jesus name. Amen.