I can tell my youngest child almost anything and she’ll believe it. I’ve tried to inculcate a well-attenuated sense for bovine excrement in all my children, but that didn’t prevent her from believing me when I told her that I have a seasonal job being a giant inflatable gorilla outside of a fireworks stand. When I tried to come clean, she said, incredulously, “You got fired?”
Not that there’s anything wrong with childlike wonder and suspension of disbelief from time to time, even if it does involve thinking I get paid to be a giant inflatable gorilla or believing in Santa Claus. That is why I’ve got to keep that particular belief going in that youngest daughter for as long as I can. So, for this Christmas, I shall once again slave away as Santa, eating some cookies and pouring out some room-temperature milk while my wife arranges all the gifts she got for the kids.
It’s not that I have to, it’s not even that I want to. It’s that I totally want to. It’s a chance to fill a child’s heart with delight and wonder and have her turn around and fill ours. It’s also a chance to see the living room explode with lights, sounds, and toys that will soon be forgotten.
There’s also the possibility of yelling and fisticuffs. They may know it’s Christmas, but they’re also still kids and, being kids, they’re always just this side of turning any situation into “Lord of the Flies.”
I get that isn’t exactly what the season is about, gifts and punches, which isn’t to say punch. We’re celebrating the birth of Jesus, not the birth of unbridled avarice. And while Christmas is no Easter, there could be no Easter without Christmas. It’s a time for reaffirmation and, despite the baubles and blows, the kids will get that reaffirmation, even if we wrap it all up with a poor tape job and a nice bow.
We’ll have fun together. We’ll go to the Christmas Eve service and sing “Silent Night” by candlelight. We’ll discuss the reason we’re celebrating. We’ll welcome a small selection of family to join us in the chaos of torn paper, bags, and packaging strewn across the living room. We’ll watch Christmas movies, traditional and nontraditional alike. We’ll eat too much food and imbibe just enough. We’ll get exhausted and yearn for a nap while the kids bounce off the walls from a sugar-high rivaled only by Halloween.
And maybe, just maybe, we can make it the best Christmas ever. Scratch that, we will make it the best Christmas ever, just like all of them. (Your experience may vary; I don’t want to get presumptuous here.) Regardless, it’s a fresh chance, every year. It’s the possibility to let go of earthly concerns and embrace wonder and a suspension of disbelief, to embrace belief. To sing “Silent Night” by candlelight and rediscover the joy we felt as children, sparked by our own children, by a Child.
This year, at least for those of us with young kids to whom we lie, Santa will be there to help. Even if he were not, though, it’s all about how we approach things.
We may know who really delivers the presents, but perhaps we should call ourselves Virginia and remember that “nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world” and to believe in more than what we see. It’s not about Santa or Horus, Bruce Willis or the Grinch, what we ordered online or picked up in a store. Maybe Christmas, just maybe, means a little bit more, to quote the Grinch.
Recently, the middle child was working on a project of some sort. It turned out that she was making a handwritten sign, in colorful cursive, that said, “Life is wonderful and filled with amazing moments.” She’s not wrong, although sometimes the tumult of it all makes us forget it.
But life is wonderful and filled with amazing moments. We just have to remember to look for them and believe in more than we can see. We have to remember that after the kids see who Santa actually is, there’s still a more wondrous belief that they can hold onto for the rest of their lives. The magic only fades if we forget that the newborn king gives us reason to be filled with even more joy and amazement than the child awaiting a visit from Santa.
So may your holidays be wonderful and filled with amazing moments. Merry Christmas and happy New Year.