Over the past two weeks I’ve had back-to-back appointments with my medical team. It’s a quarterly ritual that I will complete for the rest of my life. I anxiously await the test results which access my progress. Let’s face it: my fate is in those numbers. I got the good news that I am still in remission a couple of days before my girlfriends and I took a trip to Rock City, Tennessee, to see the Christmas lights. And, of course, that included a visit with Santa. We giggled like little kids as we took our turns to speak to him. When he asked me what I wanted, I told him that I had already received it thanks to Jesus. He smiled knowingly and winked as he handed me a candy cane.
Inspiration is everywhere. On the way home, I thought about Santa and all that his jolly presence has taught us from the time we are children and even, I suppose, as we grow into adulthood. It is a common holiday reflection, amid the hustle and bustle, a lovely idea to consider. Here are my thoughts on the most recognizable icon of Christmas giving.
A mother cradles the baby boy in her arms, while Dad holds his three-year-old-sister by the hand. The line is excruciatingly long, and they pray that the young ones will remain in good spirits as they inch their way toward the destination, Santa’s lap. There will be the obligatory photo to mark the occasion. It is a holiday tradition played out in various spots all over the country at this most wonderful time of the year. But there is also something powerful at work here, something significant behind the symbol of the jolly old elf in his big red suit. Indeed, the values we learn as children from Santa remain with us for a lifetime.
Santa is our first lesson in faith as we come to trust in the miracle which we cannot witness. To receive, we must believe. When we wake on Christmas morning to the enchanting and much -anticipated surprise that the bearded fat man and his flying reindeer delivered as we slept peacefully, we reinforce the concept that we don’t have to see the magic to believe that it is real. And as we grow older, we are given a menu of spiritual, political, social and cultural ideals from which to choose. Ultimately, we are shaped by these principles, strengthening that faith we learned in those early years.
Santa teaches us that we can ask without expecting to receive. As children, we craft a wish-list, an often unrealistic fantasy of everything we could ever want. We are given license to dream big with hopes tied up in a brightly wrapped package. There is joy in the anticipation, of course, but as we are often admonished, we may not always get what we want. And when we don’t, we quickly learn that nothing tangible is guaranteed and disappointments don’t last long.
Santa demonstrates to us how to give freely and unconditionally. We come to understand that there is power in the sheer joy of giving without expecting gratitude or reciprocation. It is a form of sacrifice and a demonstration of love, which helps us to learn what that means in its purest sense.
Santa takes delight and pride in his work. There is, of course, a larger purpose to what he does. He shows us that the end result comes from a cooperative effort between himself and his crew, who work together in joy and laughter. He runs a happy little workshop!
Santa looks past the superficial in himself and others. Let’s face it: he is a portly man, with a long while beard and a belly that shakes when he laughs. And yet, there is no self-depreciation or compelling need to be anything more than himself. What’s even more remarkable is that he provides equal opportunity love, regardless of race, color, creed or religion. In Santa’s eyes, we are all worthy of good tidings of great joy, while encouraging us to be accountable for our behavior as we strive to be the best version of ourselves.
Santa shows us that wonderment and imagination are mighty fine to behold. To suspend cynicism and disbelief in the midst of a demanding modern world, to accept and appreciate rather than doubting, often brings us happiness as it reinforces an emotional connection to everything around us. The land of enchantment is a pretty wonderful place to visit occasionally.
And so we are admonished by Santa to keep the spirit of Christmas alive throughout the year, to redouble our efforts to be kind and generous and grateful, to view the world with childlike amazement. Wouldn’t it be lovely if indeed we could? Perhaps for all of us, this should be our most important resolution for the New Year.