Saddleback Church lead pastor Rick Warren recently issued a warning against letting secular traditions like Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman overtake the true meaning of Christmas.
In a Daily Hope devotional published Tuesday, Warren cautioned about having traditions that are unbiblical supplant the birth of Jesus Christ.
“We have so many Christian traditions. They just keep adding up: Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty, and Elf on the Shelf. We have new tradition after new tradition, but no one is talking about the real reason for the season,” wrote Warren.
“None of those traditions will make a real, lasting difference in your life. But a relationship with God will.”
Warren drew a comparison to the religious authorities of Jesus’ day, who had developed many traditions that distracted them from loving God and neighbor. As Warren noted, none of these officials were present for Jesus’ birth.
“The religious leaders of Jesus’ day knew every religious tradition by heart, but they wouldn’t walk five miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to witness the birth of God’s Son,” continued Warren.
“People today will put up lights, have parties, give gifts, and send out cards. They’ll participate in every single Christmas tradition they can squeeze into December.”
Warren is not the only evangelical leader to offer recent cautions about Christian parents putting too much emphasis on things like Santa Claus.
Earlier this month Pastor Mark Driscoll of Trinity Church in Arizona released a video message saying that parents should tell their children about the historic 4th century Saint Nicholas instead of the modern Santa Claus.
“We told them the truth, that there really was in history past a guy who we now know as Santa Claus, who did love and serve Jesus, he was a pastor and a godly man,” said Driscoll.
“We really want to celebrate the man for who he was and what he really did, and some of the extra things — they are interesting, they are fun, not necessarily evil, but are not actually the facts of the story.”
Warren’s comments come not long after a study was published by the journal Lancet Psychiatry arguing that parents lying to their children about the existence of Santa Claus can foster mistrust.
“The Santa myth is such an involved lie, such a long-lasting one, between parents and children, that if a relationship is vulnerable, this may be the final straw,” said Kathy McKay, co-author of the study, as reported by the Guardian.
“If parents can lie so convincingly and over such a long time, what else can they lie about? … There is potential for children to be harmed in these lies.”