The following is an excerpt from a message that was delivered at Grace Community Church in Panorama City, California, By John MacArthur Jr. It was transcribed from the tape, GC 80-76, titled “A Son to Make Many Sons.” A copy of the tape can be obtained by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412.
I have made every effort to ensure that an accurate transcription of the original tape was made. Please note that at times sentence structure may appear to vary from accepted English conventions. This is due primarily to the techniques involved in preaching and the obvious choices I had to make in placing the correct punctuation in the article.
It is my intent and prayer that the Holy Spirit will use this transcription, of the portion of the tape, to strengthen and encourage the true Church of Jesus Christ.
Scriptures quoted in this message are from the New American Standard Bible.
The message speaks to the issue of “Santa Claus” as it pertains to Christians and their children.
What a false, fake substitute the world puts forth at this time [Christmas 1990] for that true message. Do you remember these words? “You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why; Santa Claus is coming to town. He’s making a list and he’s checking it twice; gonna find out whose naughty and nice. Santa Claus is coming to town. He sees you when you’re sleeping; he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sakes. You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why; Santa Claus is coming to town.”
Now does that threaten you? That is a very threatening poem. That is intended to scare children. Now listen, if you look at the letters of Santa, you will see that Satan is hidden in Santa. When we teach a child to sing this song, we are teaching him a false theology. We are teaching him a false set of doctrine. Let me see if I can explain it to you.
First, that song teaches that Santa is a transcendent being. He lives on a higher plane. He lives on another level. He transcends time and space. He has powers equal to whom? God! Not only that, he knows everything. He’s omniscient. “He knows when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’re naughty. He knows when you’re nice.” He knows everything.
Not only that, he’s everywhere. “He sees you when you’re sleeping.” He’s not only omniscient, he’s omnipresent. And he is watching to see whether you have been good or bad. And not only that, but he bestows favors. Now on what basis does Santa give his favors? What must I do to receive good things from this transcendent being, called Santa. Well it is very simple, I have to be what? Good. I can “earn” Santa’s favor. If I am good, Santa will give me gifts. After all, he’s making a list and he is checking it twice to make sure that we’ve been either naughty of nice. And on the basis on how we’ve been, he’ll deal with us.
And if I’m not nice and good, I won’t get any gifts. So I better be good for goodness sake, not to mention for my own sake or anybody else’s sake. But do you want to know something about Santa? He may be transcendent, and he may be omniscient, and he may be omnipotent, and he may be omnipresent. He may be dispensing all of the good things, but you know what? You can’t trust him. You can’t trust him. You say, “What do you mean by that?”
It says, “He’s checking to see if you are naughty or nice.” And you better be good for goodness sake, because if you aren’t good, you won’t what? You won’t get anything. You want to know something? That’s not true. Plenty of times I haven’t been good and I get something anyway. Every year I get something. And you want to know the truth of it? There are a lot of naughty people that get a lot and there are a lot of nice people that don’t get anything.
Do you know what about Santa Claus? You can’t trust him. He doesn’t even stay true to his own word. He’s blustering around and warning everybody to mind your manners and be good all the time; be nice and not naughty and good and not bad. And then you know what? When Christmas comes he caves in, and even when we have been naughty he gives us all that stuff. And sometimes he overlooks people that are nice. He really can’t be trusted. His threats are meaningless and so are his promises. But that’s good because it takes the sting out of him.
And there is another good thing about Santa; you only have to worry about him once a year. He only shows up once and you know when it is; it’s always on Dec 25th, so you can get your act together just a few days before. You say, “Well where is he the rest of the time?” Oh, he’s in the North Pole. Could that be heaven in Satan’s little scheme? “What’s he doing?” Oh, he has all these elfs around him. “What are they doing?” Whatever he tells them. Mostly, meaningless things like make toys. He is sort of inane isn’t he? He threatens but never fulfills his threats. He promises but doesn’t always fulfill his promises.
Is it any wonder that if I believe all that as a child, when I come to be an adult, I might have a hard time believing in a Transcendent God who does know everything, who is everywhere, who does have all power, who does keep his promises and his threats, and who does not save me and give me good gifts on the basis of my works but on the basis of His grace. If Santa has been my understanding of God, then I am in trouble. That’s why I say, hidden in the letters of Santa is Satan.
I am glad for a God who is absolutely dependable. I can trust His promises. I can trust His threats. He is everywhere at all times and He doesn’t just show up once a year. He is here all of the time. And He gives His great gift, not on the basis of our works but on the basis of His grace through faith.