What About Santa?

Wenton L. Davis

I find myself, as so many this year, at a complete loss for balancing a budget, chasing down Christmas presents, figuring out how to give what to who, packaging, mailing, paying for delivery, and the many stages of frustration that comes with this thing we stumble across each year known as "The Season." Nevertheless, I find myself pacing the mall, looking in each window, all-the-while fondling my empty wallet.  Candy in this store, calendars in that store, toys in the next; I watch an endless parade of goodies and people, although I'm not sure hearing "Jesus Christ" in most tones is actually celebratory.

I then return home with my credit-purchased greetings to find that I have too little paper, and no tree to put them under anyway.  Still, I diligently wrap.... well... some of them, and I look around the house for a place to set a tree, finally deciding I can save money without the tree anyway.  Besides, my job has run me ragged right through to December 22nd, yet as foolish as the upper management is, I must remain happy to have a job as so many of my dear friends at that company have been released of their responsibilities.

But no, I choose to not let those losses hinder my holiday.  Instead, I tape two strings of lights, one gold and one blue, to the top of my window and carefully draw the shape of a Christmas tree in the blinds that fill the window.  Its a pathetic little tree, but it will have to do, and I think of my friends who were evacuated from their homes this past June when the Waldo Canyon Fire turned with the anger of all of Hell unexpectedly towards people who believed they were safe.  While none of my friends lost their homes, there was still tremendous damage, and while I stare at my dismal little tree, I wonder how many cherished ornaments were lost?  How many candy canes, how many Rudolphs, how many Santas,.... how many baby Jesus?

But we were not the only ones suffering losses this year.  The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy still rumbles through the homes of so many people, and with Christmas rampaging towards us, we find many people are still without power in those hardest-hit areas.

And just as life settles down and Christmas seems to embrace us, we are awakened by the shooting of children and teachers by a madman with nothing better to do than express his opinion with the loudest possible voice, but whose message is lost under the echos of his guns.   ...whose message was lost under the lamentings of "why did this happen?"  And while the politicians feed on the questions of gun control and regulations, the mournings fill our ears, "why would God allow this; Where was God?" and the eager caterwauls proclaiming "this isn't about God, its about the guns," while the grieving families care more about the need to believe their children are with God.  This, while church members must be blocked from the funerals by lines of leather-clad bikers to protect the sorrowful from the angry voices that "God is punishing you!" and shelter the hopeful from the need to hope that there is no God who would allow this to happen, and the overpowering "Of course there's a God!" from the (seemingly) scientific demands that they must prove there is a God against the evangelistic retorts to prove there is no God, which can seemingly only be silenced by the echos of a child's voice, "what about Santa?"

Indeed, little one, what about Santa? For who amoung us carries the darkness of soul that with the same voice of impudent anger can then carry the temerity to turn to the child and tell them that Santa is just Mommy stuffing the stockings while Daddy is eating the cookies and drinking the milk? What world is this that lays to rest on the mind of a child how God can send his son to save the world, and that Santa scans the Earth sorting good and bad children, to bless the good little boys and girls with a toy and punish the bad little boys and girls with a lump of coal (which, 100 years ago, even a lump of coal might have been worth the same amount of gold to a cold and hungry family).  From the eyes and ears of a child, which of these is likely to be the most true, the most realistic, point of view? To that child, a jolly old fat man with thoughts of love and compassion and most treasured of all, TOYS!.... must seem far more worth celebrating that a baby that we find nailed to a cross 4 months later.  And of course, the child doesn't understand that it is the story between the baby and the cross that matters.... the child wants the gift... not out of greed, but out of the cherished love of their families and their friends.

Once again, I find myself strolling through the mall, and a couple walks out of the calendar shop behind me... she is arguing that some friend of theirs spend over $400 taking them to dinner, and the least they could do was buy him a calendar.  He was replying that he was not going to spend that much money, but that they would come back next weekend, after Christmas, and buy it for half price, while she continued to argue that they would only be saving a couple of dollars.  What a remarkable, yet entirely too-common theme we hear every year.  I find myself falling back to a phrase heard in Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," "...and Christ and Confucius, with all their words useless; we quote them in fractions but not with our actions..."  and I wonder, how far are we willing to go in our crazy lives to buy gifts for others but not for the joy of giving, as made evident by stream of "God damn-it"s and continued not exactly celebrational cries of "Jesus Christ!" So many people seem to put themselves through that only out of the eager expectation that the gift they expect to receive should out-perform the little trinket they plan to share.  The parade continues, full of people checking their own lists, looking for the best bargain, and off in the distance, a child crying, "Mommy, I just want to see Santa!!!"

Having found my present, I return home, still hearing in my mind the child crying, "Santa, I want to see Santa."  The thought of a little one whose need to share his want for that bright red fire truck, or the talking doll, or the shiny tri-cycle with flowing streamers continues to haunt me as I check my own list of what few gifts I did buy.  After some thought, it occurs to me that Santa is more real to the children because of the nature of the need for that one special toy, but yet, Santa, we know, is simply a metaphor for us to simply the relation of Christ to the rest of us to the understanding of a child, to receive a gift when only milk and cookies are expected in return.  And regardless of one's understanding in God, Karma, the Universe, or what have you, the gifts we receive are clearly given, and not even milk and cookies are expected in return.

Is a child's quest for Santa any different than our individual quest for happiness? But if Santa is a metaphor to give to children to represent Christ, then perhaps, too, must children's needs to ask Santa for gifts a metaphor for us, to show us the needs to share our gifts with those around us?  And that if so, then it is by sharing these gifts we have in abundance from whatever universal surge created us that the people around us receive their gifts? Are we conduits between life and each other? Perhaps this child's need for Santa's gifts is the mirror of life's needs that we share it's gifts with others, and symmetrically, that we then receive our gifts?

My ..... what should I call it... my prayer?.... my dream?.... my hope?.... for us all is not that we get the gifts we wanted or that we find toys (or even coal) in our stockings.  Instead, that we rejoin the long-lost childhood quest for Santa, to leap into a lap and share the love of a toy, if not a lost memory or loved one.  While the children of Connecticut might not understand our bickering views on the "adult world," perhaps they might better appreciate seeing us rejoin them in their world, and show all of our children that we don't all have to agree, but we do all have to play nicely together.

I place the few presents under the "tree" I have decorated, and I look at it all, oblong, tilted, and wrong in so very many artistically failed ways, and I see that despite it's many (oh so many) awkward failings, one thing is needed.  It took some digging, one box, then another, but at long last I find it, and placed as prominently and conspicuously as possible, my tree, tonight, says, "here is Santa."

My funny little tree