Over the weekend, my sister relayed the sad tale of my five-year-old nephew. It seems that, for the past nights, he’s cried himself to sleep, terrified that he hasn’t been good enough this year for Santa to visit. At the other end of the spectrum, however, is, my younger nephew, age three. He is so taken with the concept Santa that the only thing he asked for besides toys was a painting of the fat and jolly man himself, an oddly adorable request.
There’s something wrong with this picture, but it’s not greed or consumerism. The morality of Christmas is merely a reflection of Christianity itself: do good things (i.e., give gifts) so that good things happened to you (i.e., you receive even better gifts). I think the reason some Christians these days want to reject Christmas isn’t because of its roots as a pagan ritual, the un-Christian perils of materialism, or the dishonesty of propping up a false idol as the symbol of the holiday; it’s because this plain fact throws into sharp relief the biggest flaw in Christian ethics. Don’t do good things because they’re inherently right (and yes, certain actions are inherently right and wrong); do good things because you’re ascared of God’s wrath, or ascared your seat in Heaven won’t be quite as good.