I love Santa. Every year my wife gets me a new Santa ornament to put on our tree. It’s pretty much a Santa tree now. I’ve always loved Santa, but not always for the right reasons.
As a child I loved Santa because he brought me cool things like a big red fire engine or a Lionel train set. I was taught, like most kids, that Santa brings toys to all the good girls and boys. Santa gives and I receive. I thought it was a pretty good arrangement.
I thought everyone received the same kind of wonderful things under their Christmas trees as I did. But, they did not. The year I learned that, I was devastated. Not every child could boast of their Christmas haul from Santa. I was shocked to learn that some kids didn’t get any toys.
“Were those kids bad?” I asked my mom. What else was I supposed to think? I was taught that if you’re on the nice list, you get lots of toys; so, if certain children didn’t get lots of toys then they must have been on the naughty list.
My mother took me to the house of a family she worked with through the school district. It was a much smaller house than where I lived, but three times as many people lived in it. I was shocked. My mother explained that not every girl and boy was as lucky as me. I asked why Santa didn’t do something about it.
“Even Santa needs help. Do you think you could help Santa this year?”
My mother told me that the boy I met in the house, who was my age, desperately wanted a Big Wheel tricycle. I went to my room and got all my allowance I’d been saving. I gave my mom my prized 20-dollar bill, saying, “I want to help Santa.”
The week of Christmas I had the privilege of taking a Big Wheel back to that house and giving it to the boy’s parents. I will never forget the look on their faces. I will never forget their words of gratitude. It was the best Christmas present ever, and it wasn’t even mine.
I have a daughter of my own now, and I don’t want her to see Santa as just someone who brings her gifts. I don’t want her to think only about receiving on Christmas. I want her to grow up helping Santa and helping others.
My wife and I started a new tradition last year, our daughter’s first Christmas. Instead of leaving milk and cookies for Santa, we left Santa a gift to take to another boy or girl who needed it. We choose something that our daughter loved to share with another child.
Each year, we will help our daughter buy a new version of something she has loved that year to leave for Santa. This way, Christmas isn’t just about what Santa brings her – it’s about what Santa can take to other children because of what she gives.
The beauty of Santa is like the beauty of God’s grace. Santa doesn’t just give to the “good” girls and boys. Santa gives to everyone because Santa’s love is bigger than behavior. We have the opportunity to help Santa, just as we have the opportunity to share God’s love and grace.
As the church, we don’t just receive God’s gifts; we share our gifts with God’s children. We don’t just receive God’s grace; we extend God’s grace to our neighbors. We are the church because we want to be God’s helpers.
How can we be God’s helpers? By visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, looking for the lost and loving everyone. We are God’s helpers by giving of ourselves, presenting our whole selves as living gifts to God.
How do we live as God’s helpers? Perhaps it looks like deciding to be Santa’s helper. It starts with the giving of all we have received.