Every kid in America knows at least two things about “Santa Claus.” One, he lives at the North Pole, and two, he delivers presents in a sleigh.
The problem is, both of those facts are wrong!
The idea of a Santa Claus grew out of traditions surrounding the historical Saint Nicholas (a fourth-century Greek bishop and gift-giver.) Actually, nowadays Santa lives on Long Island and drives a black pickup. His birth name was Frank, he has three tattoos, and he thinks zombies are awesome.
There’s a man in New York who has legally changed his name to Santa Claus. And he’s totally embraced the part—from the beard to the red furry outfit to the “ho-ho-hos.” Let’s watch Santa in action.
Play this video for your students [2:04].
Santa Claus Is Real
- Why do you think a guy named Frank would change his name to Santa Claus? (Guide your students to the idea that he probably wants to take on the qualities of Santa. Maybe that just means a jolly laugh and a cool costume. But hopefully, Santa-Frank also embodies some of the character traits of Saint Nick like generosity toward others.)
A name can be a powerful thing. It’s not magic—calling a turkey “cow” won’t make it start mooing. But on the other hand, a name is a powerful reminder of who you are . . . or maybe who you want to be.
Every day when the man formerly known as Frank checks his mail for envelopes addressed to “Santa Claus,” he gets a reminder that he’s someone else now. Hopefully, he’s reminded to live with the generosity and kindness that are represented by his new name.
- If you were going to change your name, what would you change it to? Why? (Accept all reasonable answers. Encourage your students to think about what draws them to a certain name. Do they just like the sound of it, or would having that name encourage them to live differently?)
A name can be a powerful reminder of who you are. Maybe your parents even picked out your name to represent a quality they hoped you would develop.
In the Bible, some names have a slightly different purpose. They’re still a reminder of qualities a person has. But the reminder isn’t just for the person with the name—it’s really a reminder to us of the way God shaped that person’s story. What’s the most important thing God wants us to recall about that person?
For example, Abraham means “father of many,” because he became the ancestor of the nation of Israel. Peter means “rock,” because Jesus made him one of the foundations of the Church. And then there’s the name we want to focus on today—Jesus. It means “rescuer” or “deliverer.”
- Why does the name “Jesus” have such significance to us as Christians? (It’s because Jesus has rescued/ delivered all of us from our sins!)
When people think of Christmas, they often think of two names. One of them is Santa Claus. That’s who Frank from Long Island decided to be, and hopefully he lives up to it by living generously like Saint Nick.
But the very name of the holiday we are talking about—Christmas—should be linked to Jesus the Christ! That’s the important name! Santa’s generosity in giving gifts is good, but Jesus rescued us by giving His life.
Jesus’ name is a reminder of why we honor Him every week in church. God doesn’t want us to forget that it’s only Jesus who can deliver us from our sins.
Let’s dig deeper into His name as we look at a familiar passage from Matthew.
Looking for Steps 2 & 3?
You can find Steps 2 and 3 in your teacher’s guide; your Step 4 appears below. To purchase a teacher's guide, please visit: Bible-in-Life or Echoes
- Blank Christmas cards (1 per student; template here)
- Paper cutter or scissors
Optional: Hole punch, baker’s twine, jute, or ribbon
Before class, print and cut out enough blank Christmas cards so that each student has one. The template has two cards per sheet.
Every time the man formerly known as Frank walks to the mailbox, he gets a reminder of his new identity: Santa Claus. Every time we hear the name of Jesus, we get a reminder as well: He’s the Rescuer God the Father sent to deliver us from our sins.
- What do you think of when you hear the name of Jesus? (Accept all reasonable answers. Note: Depending on their experiences in church and life, not all students’ responses will necessarily be positive. Let them be honest about their feelings.)
The name of Jesus means something a little different to each of us. In Hebrew, it means rescuer or deliverer. If we believe Jesus rescued us from our sins, there’s one response we should definitely have: thanking Him for delivering us!
Hand each student a blank Christmas card and a pen or pencil. People send Christmas cards for a lot of reasons. Sometimes, we want to stay in touch with old friends. Sometimes, we just want to share a little joy. Today, use this card to thank Jesus for His Christmas gift to you: His life.
You can write whatever you want in this card—you and Jesus can be the only ones who see it. You can just write “thanks a lot” in the card and be done. But hopefully you’ll honor Jesus by writing something more thoughtful. Come up with two or three sentences that express your gratitude to God for the Ultimate Gift.
Give your students a few minutes to write in their cards. Optional: you might want to provide a hole punch and baker’s twine, jute, or ribbon so that anyone can make an ornament out of their card to hang on their tree or somewhere else at home if they want to. If time permits, invite volunteers to share all or part of what they’ve written. Remember, you told your students no one would read this but them and Jesus, so don’t require anyone to share.
When you hear the name “Jesus” this Christmas season, take a second to remember what it means. He’s the One who has rescued us from our sins! Then take another second to thank Him for delivering you. His life, sacrificed for us, is a greater gift than anyone—even Frank—will ever bring.
Close in prayer.
(David C Cook is not affiliated with and does not endorse any website or any other media listed on these pages. At the time of writing, David C Cook editors carefully review the referenced material and non-referenced web page content. However, due to the nature of the Internet, non-cited content on the website [including pop-ups, links, and ads] changes frequently and is beyond our control. Please review carefully before showing links in the classroom.)