A couple of weeks ago one of the dads from school asked me if I could speak to his scout troop about Christmas. He knows what I do for a living and thought that maybe having the kids hear from a pastor what Christmas is about would help them understand it all more. I was excited to do this, and the group came by yesterday afternoon.
Inevitably, there were a lot of questions. Like, a LOT. These kids really were inquisitive. And of course, one kid asked, “is Santa real?”
I immediately told him to ask his parents. But then I thought about it, and I said that Santa is indeed real, as real as we make him and as long as Santa isn’t about ourselves. He looked puzzled.
I actually got that from this thing I read on the internet years ago, and I’m not even sure what the source is. The oldest I can find is from just a random user posting the story on a random web forum. But it was so good that it stuck with me forever, and I may even have shared it with some of you in the past. But that won’t stop me from sharing it again (it’s that good).
So here, from poster “meow” on the “Sjogrens World Forum”, is “The Secret of Santa”:
don’t know if I have ever posted this here, but for those of you with children of a certain age, this is the way we taught our sons about Santa:
THE SECRET OF SANTA
In our family, we have a special way of transitioning the kids from receiving from Santa, to becoming a Santa. This way, the Santa story is not a lie that gets discovered, but is instead an unfolding series of good deeds and Christmas spirit.
When they are 6 or 7, whenever you see that dawning suspicion that Santa may not be a material being, that means the child is ready.
I take them “out for coffee.” We get a booth, order our drinks, and the following pronouncement is made:
“You sure have grown an awful lot this year. Not only are you taller, but I can see that your heart has grown, too. [ point out 2-3 examples of empathetic behavior, consideration of people’s feelings, good deeds etc, the kid has done in the past year]. In fact, your heart has grown so much that I think you are ready to become a Santa Claus.
“You probably have noticed that most of the Santas you see are people dressed up like him. Some of your friends might have even told you that there is no Santa. A lot of children think that, because they aren’t ready to BE a Santa yet, but YOU ARE.
“Tell me the best things about Santa. What does Santa get for all of his trouble? [lead the child from “cookies” to the good feeling of having done something for someone else]. Well, now YOU are ready to do your first job as a Santa!”
Make sure you maintain the proper conspiratorial tone.
We then have the child choose someone they know–a neighbor, usually. The child’s mission is to secretly, deviously, find out something that the person needs, and then provide it, wrap it, deliver it–and never reveal to the target where it came from. Being a Santa isn’t about getting credit, you see. It’s about unselfish giving.
My oldest son chose the “witch lady” on the corner. She really was horrible–had a fence around the house and would never let the kids on Kirkcaldy Street go in and get a stray ball or frisbee. She’d yell at them to play quieter, etc–a real pill. She came out to get her paper every morning at the exact same time, when we were driving to school. Adam noticed that she was always in bare feet or flip-flops, so he decided she needed slippers. He had to go spy and decide how big her feet were, so he hid in the bushes one Saturday, and decided she wore a Medium.
We went to Kmart and bought warm slippers. He wrapped them up, and tagged it “Merry Christmas from Santa.” After dinner one evening, he slipped down to her house, and slid the package under her driveway gate. The next morning, we watched her waddle out to get the paper. She picked up the present, peered at it quizzically, and went inside. My son was all excited, and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. The next morning, as we drove off, there she was, out getting her paper–wearing the slippers. Adam was ecstatic. I had to remind him that NO ONE could ever know what he did, or he wouldn’t be a Santa.
Over the years, he chose a new target every Christmas, always coming up with a unique present just for them. One year, he polished up his bike, put a new seat on it, and gave it to one of our friend’s daughters, with the permission of her parents. This family was very poor. The look on her face, when she saw the bike on the patio with a big bow on it, was almost as good as the look on my son’s face.
When it came time for Son #2 to join the ranks, my oldest came along, and helped with the induction speech. They are both excellent, creative gifters, by the way, and never felt that they had been lied to–because they were let in on the Secret of Being a Santa.
Happy Holidays to All!
So what does all this Santa talk have to do with these readings? Well, after my friend asked me to talk to the kids about Christmas, it struck me that in the church, we often say that the “real” reason for Christmas is Jesus… full stop. I mean, “Christ” is in the name of Christmas after all. So for these folk, Christmas had better be about going to church, sharing in the Christmas traditions, and making sure that there is some kind of recognition of Jesus being born in a barn. That is all fine and good, but I wonder if the point might be a bit lost.
Because it also struck me that it’s mostly outside the church where I hear that Christmas is about giving, about charitable acts, and about loving community. It’s these folk who are doing extra for the homeless, volunteering their time helping others, and generally doing what they could to be “Santa” for those around them.
These texts for the 1st Sunday of Christmas seem to allude to that. We have Samuel dedicated to God, we have Paul reminding us to dedicate ourselves to God and God’s ways, and we have Jesus found in the only place where you probably should be looking for him: in God’s house. There seems to be a real theme of adopting God’s ways and teachings and applying them to our everyday lives.
And what are God’s ways and teachings about? On the most part, from how I see it, they are about generosity, compassion, and empathy. They are about being a good neighbour, acting charitable toward those in need, and lending a helping hand. They are about right relationship, about community, about love. Basically, they are essentially about all that the Secret of Santa is all about.
So whether you want to adopt this way of explaining Santa or not, I think the principle of selfless giving is a very Christian principle. The act of being charitable is something that we are called to do as Christians. This love for our neighbour is one of the messages of the Christmas story, and one that is very applicable for us today.
I hope that this Christmas brings you much joy, and at the same time that you’re able to provide much joy to your loved ones and those around you!