To make my case, let me tell a little story: My daughter was 7 years old and, being a pastor's kid, had grown up in church. For a number of her conscious years, she had celebrated the 6 of December or the Sunday closest to it as a remembrance of St. Nicolas of Myra. You remember him, yes? Patron saints of children, secret givers, butchers, sea farers; attendee at the council of Nicea where history suggest that he walked up the the heretic of the day, Arius, and decked him. An aside: my kids are studying martial arts; is it because they knew of that story and want to be ready for the attack of the heretic? Never mind . . . He was kicked out of the council but readmitted after making a repentant apology. Anyway, the good saint has a place in my heart and is somehow remembered in the liturgy of the church where I am presiding at worship.
My kid and I were at the local IGA, waiting at the cash register. An older man was in line behind us and leaned down toward my daughter asking: "SO, what is Santa going to bring you tomorrow?" My sweet daughter, without hesitation replied: "Santa Claus was an important man in the church, he was a great man and a saint, he loved Jesus very much but he is dead. We give each other gifts at home in honor of Jesus' birthday." In my head I was doing a victory lap around the check out lanes. "The kid gets it!" The old man sputtered, looked in my smile crossed face, and with some annoyance replied: "Well I believe in Santa. Too bad he is not coming to your house."
Kids learn from what adults dare to teach. My kids grew up with Saint Nicolas of Myra as an example of good Christian charity but no more. They know him as mortal, unable to squeeze down chimneys, without nary a reindeer or a home where they would have been prevalent. They know him as a devout and passionate Christian who dared to live the Faith into which they also where baptized. I would submit that that is far more lasting and important than some romantic notion of Norman Rockwell childhood believes that adults sometimes idolize as a cute stage of childhood. History can and should be allowed to help form true Christian faith. The liturgical church has history and a means to make it a catalyst in that faith. Are we church enough to use it?