December 15-18, 2007
Its difficult, for me, to keep my mind from wandering down the road that, instead of having Christmas light-decorated houses, is cluttered with the contradictions of the Christmas season. Even though I am definitely one to get wrapped up in the nostalgia of the holidays, I know that the “magic” that I experienced as a child was just that: magic. Likewise, I know that David Copperfield can most accurately be described as an illusionist rather than a magician and that the “magic” that I remember was not really magic at all, but, ignorance.
The groundlessness of the nostalgic, ideal childhood Christmases in my mind is made even more so when juxtaposed against the reality of what the majority of other children in the world were experiencing at the very moment that I was unwrapping my new G.I. Joe motorized tank: the absence of clean drinking water, the absence of enough food for a meal, the pain of cancer, the limitations of muscular dystrophy, and the loneliness of orphanhood. Unlike the diminishing of my childhood ignorance over the years, however, these real human tragedies and their resulting despair have endured and progressed to new levels.
To contemplate this reality, for me, is to experience the disappointment that comes from being let down by the fabricated stories that I now feed my own daughter. My wife and I had considered, briefly, the possibility of not going through with the whole Santa charade with my daughter, but, ended up doing so anyway. Granted, I still enjoy singing and reading about Santa and Rudolph, but, anticipating when and how Julia will learn that he’s not real isn’t something that I enjoy. She’ll be disappointed someday, too.
And what kind of precedent does this set? What is to keep her from thinking that if we lied by telling her that Santa was real, but, he turned out fake, that Jesus is fake, too? That is my biggest fear and it is restrained only by the fact that my life is dependent upon Christ now, even though I spent my first several years thinking there was a Santa.
I’d like to be able to write in an ending paragraph to this post here with some grand conclusion about the best way to handle this at this point, but, the truth is that I haven’t come to one. The significant problems and realities of this world remain, as does the saving grace of Christ that this day is supposedly intended to celebrate (though Christ was not likely born on December 25). I do believe the celebration of the fact that he came is very legitimate and worthwhile and, deep down, I feel like we should be more honest with my daughter. Instead of focusing on Santa and getting we could fully focus on Christ and giving and I could rest knowing that she has and will continue to experience the real joy that comes from helping others in need, especially during the holidays. It would be a holiday tradition that would never disappoint.
One of my brightest new memories of this season, so far, came the other night when my family was out caroling at a local nursing home with a few people from my church. We were really focusing on older members of the church that were in the home, but, another older woman, not a member of our church, invited us to her door to sing for her. She asked that we sing “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and proceeded to explain to my four-year-old daughter (who was looking at the woman in a puzzled manner) that she didn’t plan on being at the home, but, that sometimes life gives us “bumps in the road,” and that God would help her through.
This was an obviously coherent woman (unlike many residents at the home) facing, undoubtedly, a very difficult and dark time in her life. It is something I can’t really fathom at this point – the idea of living my whole life and then spending the end of my time in a cold, sterile nursing home. But, after we finished stumbling through the song (we weren’t 100% sure of the words at the time) this woman took such care to express to us her appreciation and gratefulness for our visit. I can’t help but to believe that the resulting gratification that I felt from the interaction is just a taste of the real joy that could be experienced if I focused more on the giving aspect of Christmas.
One reason I think that Christ was born the way that he was, in a barn occupied by livestock, is that God wanted us to understand that it is not up to us to climb insurmountable mountains in order to reach some higher level and live up to His high and holy standard. Instead, he came down and into the world as a vulnerable, dependent, homeless child. He taught, healed, sacrificed, suffered, and continues to serve as deliverer of the free and unmerited favor of God.
We do have the opportunity to experience the real joy of Christmas on a daily basis throughout the year by serving those in need. So, maybe the question here shouldn’t even be about whether or not to celebrate the idea of Santa during Christmas, but, instead, how can we do more to help others every day of the year?
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”~Matthew 25:40