Too many debates and questions are forced into one of two categories... "good" or "bad". Most of the time, we see this as ludicrous. For example, are knives, the Internet, or movies good or bad? Obviously, it depends on the situation, the needs of people, consequences, etc.... A better framework is between "good" and "better". (Often, knowing what is "best" is beyond us.)
That's how we should approach the Santa question. Every Christmas, many Christians ponder (or at least should ponder) whether to tell there kids that Santa does not exist. The typical response of many is, "Santa is not bad. Why not? It's fun." That logic of course does not work for adults and sex... "it's not bad. Having an affair would be fun." I hear people objecting now...."that's a different issue entirely! Teaching Santa doesn't hurt anyone." That is precisely the problem....parents don't realize how much harm it does to many people.
First, Jesus gets less honor when kids' (and our) attention is given more to a make believe fat guy who gives gifts according to our good deeds, not grace.
The fact that people don't see the harm in Santa illustrates how little they treasure the name of Christ being loved and enjoyed supremely in human hearts. Therefore, it's a heart issue: what are we most excited about, most talk about, and most think about?Our kids? What are they most excited about, most talk about, and most think about?
Second, it hurts our kids. How? First, it deprives them of the annual chance to single-mindedly think on the gospel, the good news of Christ's coming. Do we think so little of it that we would allow for distractions? The greatest way to love anyone, kids included, is to help them savor the glory of Christ. It would be absurd for us to celebrate Dora the Explorer or Mickey Mouse more than my kid on his or her birthday.
Third, besides our kids, other people who watch our lives miss out on seeing that Jesus matters as much as he does! This is one of the easiest, clear ways Christians can stick out.....as they should.
Fourth, for many kids, it sends confusing signals about trust, when they find out that their parents and teachers have lied to them. Someone very close to me has this testimony of hurt b/c they felt deceived and foolish.
In short, people perpetuate the Santa story because they want their kids to have an "experience" or a "feeling" this time of year. The problem is not that; the problem is that people don't think Jesus is satisfying enough, in fact the source of better "experiences" and "feelings".
Functionally, what are we celebrating as "the gospel" (the good news) at Christmas? Kids remember what we get excited about. Do we boast in the cross or Santa?
It's ironic that today if a teacher were to tell the students that Christmas celebrates Jesus' birth, which all agree on, it would create controversy. However, if they tell kids that Santa exists, which ALL ADULTS know is false, they are commended.
Something is wrong here when we suppress the truth and rejoice in a lie.
Here is our blog from last year on the topic, The Issue of 'Santa Claus'