Saving Christmas – Not Quite
By Jeanne Gowen Dennis
Kirk Cameron’s latest project to hit the screen is Saving Christmas: Put Christ Back in Christmas. My husband and I saw the movie on the day it was released.
We like watching Kirk Cameron with Ray Comfort teaching Christian apologetics, and Kirk’s Monumental documentary was inspirational in many ways. So we were expecting to enjoy Saving Christmas. However, in our opinion, Saving Christmas does not live up to its name.
An Apologetic for American Christmas Traditions
Saving Christmas is an apologetic for traditional American Christmas traditions, thinly veiled as entertainment. In the movie, Kirk’s character systematically goes through various Christmas decorations and symbols trying to convince a brother-in-law that they all have a biblical basis, or at least a biblical application. The brother-in-law is presented as a legalist, someone who can’t get into the Christmas spirit because he’s hung up on the non-biblical aspects of the celebration.
Some of Kirk’s arguments are good, and the information he presents is interesting. We encourage parents to share with their children the symbolism and historical information behind Christmas symbols and traditions, some of which the movie points out. For example, it was wonderful the way Kirk took the swaddling clothes at the manger and compared them to the empty grave clothes after Jesus’ resurrection.
Kirk rightly points out that the gospel message can be told through many of the Christmas symbols, but on two points at least, his arguments fall short.
The first big objection I have to Kirk’s apologetic for American Christmas traditions is his take on Santa Claus. Kirk points out that the original man called St. Nicholas was a defender of biblical faith, especially of the essential doctrine of the deity of Christ. Nicholas was also a generous and beloved man. It is good for us to remember him.
However, no matter how much we want to remember St. Nicholas, we cannot biblically justify many of the Santa traditions our culture practices. Where in the Bible does it say that in the name of fun we can be dishonest with our children? Instead, God commands us to teach them the truth about Him:
“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NASB)
Where does it say we should teach children that anyone but God can:
• see them all the time
• know whether they’re awake or asleep, and
• know if they’re good or bad?
Only God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (all-powerful, all-knowing, and present everywhere). So what happens when we tell our children that a kindly old gentleman possesses these attributes and flies around the world delivering presents – even magically entering their own homes? The myth of Santa Claus steals the childlike wonder and devotion that should belong only to God.
“I am the Lord; that is my name!
I will not yield my glory to another
or my praise to idols.” (Isaiah 42:8 NIV)
My fear (and my experience) is that teaching children the myth of Santa Claus as truth can actually hinder them from finding true faith in Jesus Christ. “After all,” they might say, “if my parents lied to me about Santa, maybe they lied to me about God too. Or maybe they were duped themselves.”
“Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:4 NASB)
And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 8:2-6 NASB)
I don’t see anything wrong with giving gifts in memory of a saintly man, as long as we don’t lie to our children about it. Children understand about pretending. So tell them you’re pretending. Say it’s a fun, traditional game to give gifts in the name of Santa Claus. Then tell them the true story of St. Nicholas.
You also can enjoy Santa movies with your family as long as you approach them as you would a fairy tale or fictional story, but not as truth.
My second problem with Kirk’s apologetic is when he urges the brother-in-law to view the decadent pile of gifts as a cityscape of buildings and imagine all the people who hear and celebrate the Christmas message around the world. That’s a poor excuse for the “give me this and I want that” attitude of most children in America today.
It’s fine to give one another gifts, but what about teaching our children generosity and self-sacrifice? Jesus came to give Himself for us:
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. (Ephesians 5:2)
Shouldn’t we teach our children to remember the poor? To reach out to the homeless? What about remembering in prayer our brothers and sisters around the world being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ? Is there room for that in our Christmas celebrations? Jesus didn’t come the first time as a king; He came as a poor child laid in a feed trough.
It is right and good to celebrate the greatest gift the world has ever received, God’s gift to humankind in His Son. The incarnation is an incredible reason to celebrate! The eternal, immortal God chose to come to earth as a child of flesh to save us from our sins and to reconcile all sinners to God:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:1,14).
Saving Christmas has some good points, but you don’t need this movie to save Christmas. Whatever your holiday traditions, you will save Christmas in your home when you focus on the magnificent truth that Jesus Saves.
© Jeanne Gowen Dennis https://jeannedennis.com