Friday, December 25, 2015

Reflections of a Full Christmas Moon (Or, Why Santa isn't a Lie)

This morning I woke up about 5:00 am to the light of the full Christmas moon shining on my pillow, and I suddenly understood.

You see, the light of the moon is just a reflection. From it's place in the sky today, our moon fully faces the bright sun, and then in turn reflects that light down to us here on earth. It never doubts the source of its light. The moon simply takes it in, and reflects some of it back, giving us a beautiful full moon.

This Christmas, I think I have seen more and more articles about children who have asked their parents if Santa Claus is real. Most of the stories have told of the great disappointment children learn when they are told that there is no Santa, but that the gifts actually come from them. One story in particular told how a child was so distraught at the news, that he wrote a scathing, profane note to his parents telling them he hated them for lying to him, and that he would never believe anything they ever told him again.

The thing is, the parents really blew it, because they actually didn't lie to the child until they told him Santa wasn't real. He is real, and I want you to know why I believe it.

The question has always been a popular one in Christmas lore: the story of how Virginia O'Hanlon wrote to the New York Sun to ask if Santa is real is one of the most well known. Editor Francis Church responded to the girl's letter saying the now famous phrase, "Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus," and the story became famous.

Two days ago I attended a funeral service officiated by my long-time friend, Ned Beadel. during the service, Ned told the lesson of faith centered around Charles Blondin, a famous French tightrope walker who crossed the expanse above Niagra Falls on a rope several times, one time even pushing a wheelbarrow. Blondin's fans who witnessed the event exclaimed they had complete faith that Blondin could cross the rope all day long without mishap. So Blondin challenged them: If your faith in me is that strong, then who will cross with me riding in the wheelbarrow?" Not a single volunteer came forward.

We all profess our faith. We say we hold fast to our beliefs. Yet when we get called out on the depth of our convictions, do we have the understanding and conviction to follow through on that faith?

Santa Claus is what we in the USA call St. Nicholas, a saint identified by the Catholic church. Like soon-to-be-sainted Mother Theresa, Nicholas was a real person, who was an early church Bishop, and know for acts of charity, one time providing the dowry for some poor girls so they could get married. Through the years Nicholas has become the patron saint of children, brewers, pawnbrokers, and even repentant thieves and prostitutes.

So it comes easily that Saint Nicholas plays such a vital role in Christmas. Christmas is a holiday filled with laughing children, drinking, and exchanging money for goods. We lament the "greed" of the holiday, and track the financial impact of relentless Christmas shopping on our economy. Many retailers actually rely on Christmas buying for their success.

But, here is the thing: Saint Nicholas came about his acts of charity as a reflection of his faith in Jesus Christ. He gave a gift to young girls in need. The feast of his sainthood is celebrated in the middle of the advent season, December 6. And in the spirit of that great, giving man, to this day we give gifts to our friends and neighbors: sometimes even to people we really don't like! We give in the spirit of Saint Nicholas. That spirit that brought Nicholas sainthood continues to live in us, even if we don't fully understand it.

So when parents are called to jump in the St. Nicholas wheelbarrow, and explain to their children if Santa Claus is real, they falter... they fail to step up and explain their faith. There is so much about Christmas we fail to understand!

Grasp and understand what you truly believe. Be completely consumed by your faith, and act accordingly. There is so much to be gained. The joy you will feel is immense!

All of the lore of Santa, all of the tales, can be valuable lessons for children, if we let it. Nicholas was a man of faith. Tell his story. Teach children the value of complete faith, of reflecting the love of Christ in acts of generosity and charity. Teach them the value of building a lifestyle of giving. Let their generosity reflect Christ, as the full Christmas moon reflects the sun.

Tell them the truth about Santa Claus. His spirit, his faith in Christ, can be in every one of us. Santa Claus is real.