Christian artist Jimmy Needham recently posted a blog about his beef with Santa Claus for promoting a works-based gospel.
Jimmy Needham, known for his Gospel-centered soul music, wants his two young daughters to see the beauty of Christ's gift of salvation this Christmas. His family wants to celebrate the true reason for the season: grace found in Jesus Christ - the gift of salvation through His death and resurrection to pay for our sins.
"I am not necessarily anti-Santa," says Needham - "I'm just pro-Gospel. The more I've thought about it, the more I'm concerned that the Santa message is at odds with the Gospel message." Santa's gospel, he says, is moralism.
What is it that we are potentially teaching our children throughout the Christmas season? As the famous song sings, "He's making a list, checking it twice - gonna find out if you're naughty or nice!" In essence, we are telling our kids that they will be rewarded for their good deeds and punished for their bad ones. This message goes against the Christian Gospel, which exalts the name of the One Who was punished for our bad deeds so that we might live in His righteousness.
"Santa teaches us a performance-based righteousness, that right moral behavior is the key to acceptance, reward and happiness. This is a deviation from the Christian faith, which is not built on the back of our labor, but Christ's labor on our behalf," says Needham.
The message of the Gospel is clear - no one is good, no, not one. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death. But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus - for He made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (from Romans 3:10,23, Romans 6:23, and 2 Corinthians 5:21).
Santa's gospel entices children to behave so that they will be rewarded or avoid punishment. For followers of Christ, on the other hand, obedience flows joyfully out of our hearts in submission to the One Who loves us - "Because you're accepted, you can now obey out of gratitude, not guilt," says Needham.
The truth is that we are incapable of doing good apart from Christ (see Isaiah 64:6). But instead of being punished with a lump of coal, we can find mercy and grace in Jesus Christ - for all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). Those who trust in Jesus as their Savior have peace with God, Who looks at Christ's righteousness instead of our own performance.
"Gospel-grace cost Jesus His life in order to secure our pardon. Santa-grace pardons without payment," says Needham. Even naughty kids get good presents on Christmas morning, reinforcing the idea that people are pardoned for their behavior because of another's love for them. This is not so with God - though He loves us more than we can even imagine, He will by no means clear the guilty (Exodus 34:6-7). In His mercy and love, God poured His wrath on His Son Jesus for every ounce of sin that we have committed, so that we might be made innocent and blameless before God. Justice has been served, and Jesus did this for us joyfully (see Hebrews 12:2).
"The truth is [that] our actions do have consequences. Eternal consequences. And God in His mercy sent Jesus to take those consequences on Himself so we could receive the reward of life with Him," says Needham.
The Needhams, along with many who follow Christ, will teach their children the true meaning of Christmas this season. "You deserved nothing but coal," says Needham - "but God loved you so much that at His own expense He gave you the greatest gift of all, Himself."