Letter to the Editors February 1994

Dear Editors:

On the whole I have enjoyed The Outlook very much. But the article of December 93 (p.14) carried such an awful blasphemous prayer that made me wonder how that ever got in The Outlook.

It was a prayer for an excuse form Jesus to mix Santa Claus in with the celebration of our Savior’s birth! Do we have to synthesize paganism with Christianity? Was not the incarnation of our Lord humiliating enough?

You folks really slipped up on this one and I feel an explanation as well as an apology for this in the next issue would not be out of order.

With my highest regards for your integrity and in Christian love,

Hans Kloosterman Caledonia, MI

Thank you for your letter of concern regarding the article in the December issue of The Outlook written by Jan Groenendyk. We are sorry we neglected to label the article as a satire and therefore, we received six letters of concern and a few calls.

If the article is read outside the context of a satire, we can certainly understand the offense it could cause. A satire is a literary genre just as poems, essays and short stories are literary genres. Sometimes satire is used to elicit a response that might not be forthcoming from another method of writing. When we read Jan’s article for the first time, our reaction was one of guilt. We realized that, although we never use Santa Claus in our home, our excitement is not always as Christ-centered as it ought to be.

The “Inside Insights” description for this article asked: “Is Jesus REALLY the center of believers’ Christmas celebration? Read Jan Groenendyk.” That expressed the focus which was intended for the article. We again apologize for not being clear.

The Editors


Jan Groenendyk Responds

My sincere apology is offered if I offended you or anyone else by my December Outlook article: “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” Please forgive me for ever giving you the thought of blasphemy. That was the furthest from my intentions.

The article was not meant to be a prayer. It was meant to be an open letter satire, using irony. The open letter was used to depict a hypothetical (imaginary) rationalization (making of excuses) used often today to justify synthesizing (joining together) Santa Claus and the celebration of the birth of Jesus in the believer’s Christmas celebration. There is always the danger in using satire, that if misunderstood, it will be read as promoting the opposite of that which is intended, and that seems to be what has happened in some cases.

My intent in the article was to show the confusion, contradiction and inconsistency in philosophy, theology and practice when Jesus is not given His proper birthday celebration. Santa Claus is used by the unbeliever to replace the Christ of Christmas. But many Christians today do not replace Christ with Santa Claus, but rather they make Christ share His place of honor with Santa Claus, using the rationalization (excuse-making) that it is being done for the children.

In the Christian school, Christ’s birth is taught as the meaning and reason for Christmas. Yet, it has been my experience as a Christian school teacher that if things are brought to school from home for Christmas, Santa Claus is a ready guest from some of the Christian homes. He takes the form of decorated food and party items, decorations, records or tapes to listen to, or books to read, unless the children are specifically told by the teacher that Santa Claus is an unwanted guest.

The article was intended to show that the philosophies surrounding Santa Claus as the gift-giver and rewarder of good behavior or the withholder of gifts for bad behavior which are substitutes by the unbeliever for Jesus and His gospel in Christmas, are contradictory to the real celebration of Jesus’ birth and biblical teachings. I believe it gives children a confused and mixed message, and it insults Christ, as though He and His birth for us, and salvation by grace to us are not important enough for the believer to make Jesus truly the center, the sole honoree, and the joy and excitement of the Christmas celebration. Rationalization (making of excuses) can make it appear that Jesus is the center of one’s Christmas celebration when in reality Santa Claus has invaded Christ’s place in Christmas.

Please accept my apology, Mr. Kloosterman, and I hope my explanation is helpful.