The Chronicles of Narnia are among some of the most-loved children’s books of all time, especially within Christian circles. That’s because Lewis, a master storyteller, uses fiction and fantasy to communicate truth. Lewis believed that fantasy could lead children to embrace truth in the real world.
At the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the lion Aslan tells Lucy and Edmond that he will meet them when they leave Narnia and go back home to England:
“…But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
Lewis intentionally modeled Aslan on Christ.
I believe in the power of story. I believe that the lessons and truths that Lewis wraps in myth will be more easily understood and accepted by my children as they grow up. That’s why I’m going to read The Chronicles of Narnia to my kids when they’re old enough to listen. That’s why many Christian parents have done the same.
Embracing The Chronicles of Narnia is surprisingly easy for Christians. Embracing Santa Claus, on the other hand, is surprisingly much more difficult to come to terms with. Some embrace the idea wholeheartedly, doing their best to still the doubts that arise in their children as they get older. Others tell their kids from the get-go that Santa isn’t real, that it would be immoral for them to lie to their children. They also fear that discovering the truth about Santa could lead their children to wonder if the Bible is just a book of make-believe too. Most parents fall somewhere between the two extremes.
I believe a scene from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe should color our perspective. When the power of the White Witch begins to weaken, Father Christmas (Santa Claus to us Americans) arrives and presents the children with gifts to help them in their quest. I think Lewis included this scene with Father Christmas because it fits with his idea of using fantasy to teach truth that can grow and develop with children as they get older.
There is much truth that is wrapped in the myth and magic of Santa Claus. Children are exposed to the concepts of joy, giving, miracles, and belief. Of course, I don’t want my kids to be the last ones in their class to catch on to the whole truth, but I enjoy that my kids believe in Santa Claus. I see it as similar to Lewis’s reason for introducing children to Aslan and the world of Narnia. I see it as a tool to prepare my children for a better understanding of the concepts of joy, giving, miracles, and belief in the real world, in the realm of Christian faith.
Once, Lewis received a letter from a woman whose son had become concerned that he liked Aslan more than Jesus. Lewis replied, “Laurence can't really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that's what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before.” If I could build on Lewis’s thoughts here, I’d say that parents have the responsibility of helping their children transition from the fantasy to the reality because, truth be told, the reality is even more amazing, more fantastic, and more magical than the most enjoyable part of the fantasy world of Narnia. Jesus is more loving than Aslan. He is more giving. He is more awesome.
Likewise, with Santa, we parents who embrace the idea should help our children transition from the lesser fantasy to the greater reality. I agree with the line from the movie The Polar Express when Santa Claus tells a young boy, “This bell is a wonderful symbol of the spirit of Christmas, as am I. Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.” To children, Santa Claus is one of the most amazing people in the world. As they grow and mature, learning that Santa is “a wonderful symbol of the spirit of Christmas,” they can transition to the even greater reality of carrying the true spirit of Christmas—and the true Christmas story—in their heart.