A few weeks ago Dani asked me how old I was when I stopped believing in Santa Claus. I replied, “This may sound weird, but I don’t think I ever did stop believing in Santa Claus.”
She looked at me puzzled and replied matter-of-factly, “You’re right, that does sound weird.”
I went on to explain. Rest assured I don’t believe that there is a jolly old elf at the North Pole with a tribe of happy elves busily building toys to be distributed on Christmas Eve throughout the world. That belief eroded while I was still a child and gifts from Santa were awaiting our arrival in Pennsylvania days before Christmas. I wasn’t angry or disappointed; rather I celebrated the fun, the generosity, and the joy of imagination that went along with the whole Santa scenario.
My first opportunity to “be” Santa was when I had my first job in high school. I joyfully bought two presents for every member of my family and one for myself. One of the presents for each person was from me. The second present and the one for me were all wrapped in identical paper and were from Santa. I diligently wrote in my best handwriting so as to conceal my identity.
Christmas morning came and as the presents were being unwrapped there was growing confusion about the true origin of these mysterious Santa gifts. My parents and grandparents were looking at each other with quizzical looks trying to figure out who was behind this. Eventually after I couldn’t take it any longer, I revealed my plan. We had a great laugh and I relished the joy of being mysteriously generous.
And now as a parent I get the opportunity to “be” Santa once a year. I love seeing the wonder in my kids’ eyes as they peer into their stockings and open their gifts from Santa. The tradition of Santa is in its own way a gift to children. In a culture where it seems that kids are increasingly becoming a hindrance to parents doing the things that parents want to do, here is a fantastic man who wants nothing more than for kids to enjoy being kids.
In a time where some parents won’t even look at their children’s grades or show any interest in their academic achievement, here is an interested individual who will pay attention to behavior, make a list, and then check it twice. In a culture that increasingly becomes about getting what is yours and then protecting it, here is a generous man who wants to give gifts to children simply because they are kids.
Can we go too far with this tradition? Of course, but there is a balance that can be attained. Ultimately the birth of Jesus is the greatest gift ever given, and the worship of Him is ultimate. Within this season we can both worship Him and celebrate the traits of Santa that children want to see in all adults. They want to know that we will let them be kids, they want to know that we are interested in their lives, and they want to see us be generous. Have a merry Christmas!