The Real Santa

Christmas can awake many memories. Of wished for toys magically appearing under the tree. Of family dinners and relatives and friends stopping by to wish all a Merry Christmas. Sometimes it was different. Those memories are of Christmas trees thrown through front windows or of waiting on Christmas Eve for the headlights of a father’s car to appear coming down the street. Before six pm and all might be OK. Much later and Christmas was over before it started. There is, however, one particular Christmas, or rather Christmas Eve, that stands out from all the rest. It was when a not so little boy named Jimi learned there truly was a Santa Claus.

So, I need you to play Santa Claus for me on Christmas Eve.

I’d love to, Tom, but I’m working 4 to 12. Otherwise, I would. (fingers crossed).

Oh, come on. I’ve got a really good outfit all ready and besides, you’re the supervisor and you can take off a few minutes to make a lot of kids happy. Really happy.

Why don’t you do it?

I can’t do it. All the kids will recognize me. They won’t recognize you.

Nah, I can’t. It will be busy and we may be short handed. Seriously.

Come on. You know it won’t get busy until late and just think of the kids. Some of them don’t have fathers around and this will really be special.

How many kids? (I could already feel myself caving in to big brother’s logical persuasion)

Only a few. Mostly Nikki’s family. And the girls will be there to help. (Nikki was Tommy’s Ex, but a very compatible Ex and the “girls” were Tommy’s daughters, and I loved them)

OK. But, only for no more than 15 minutes or so.

Yeah, yeah. Great. And, oh, I’m making a list of all the kids and what they did good and bad this past year. You know, Santa’s List. And come down the street carrying the gift sack and ringing a bell.

How many kids are there going to be? What sack and what bell?

Don’t worry, I’ll get you everything.

And so, shortly before 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve I retrieved from my personal car my outfit, a sea-bag sized sack weighing at least 50 pounds and a harness strap with brass bells. And a sheet of paper… with about 30 names on it! Ah, brother Tom. What a conniver! After telling those that needed to know that I’d be on “special assignment” for a short time I drove, fully costumed over my “work clothes”, to my brother’s house. Luckily, it was only 5 minutes away.

Parking around the corner, hefting my sack and ring-jingling the bells for all they were worth, I clomped to my brother’s front door. The door opened and what seemed like an invasion of Lilliputians swarmed Ol’ Santa.

45 minutes later Santa was finished with picture taking, handing out presents, urging the kiddies to be nicer to their siblings the coming year and congratulating them on the little life victories of childhood. Oh, how they were amazed that Santa really knew what was up – no fooling him!

Good bye, children. See you next year! Ho, ho, ho.

Off I went, dragging the now empty sack and giving the bells a few jingles and shouting, ho, ho, ho – just in case. Rounding the corner, there he was. Jimi.

Now, everyone knows, Christmas is the time for giving. And Jimi, true to the spirit, was giving. Or at least trying to. Giving to himself, that is. For, just a few feet in front of Santa, in the warm glow of street lamps, Jimi was busy jamming a metal shim into a car door in an attempt open it… without a key. And that car just happened to be piled high with wrapped presents.

Hey, what are you doing?

Hi, Santa! Merry !%#@&)# Christmas!

Poor Jimi. High and busted.

You’re under arrest.

Whaat? And with that Jimi started his getaway, only to run into another street light.

Fishing through my outfit, I was finally able to retrieve the cuffs and snap them onto Jimi before he could utter another, “What the @&$*”? As a matter of fact, that was all Jimi could manage to say, over and over, as we drove to the station and up the ramp to the sally-port doors.

Joe, the booking officer, opened the doors and gave out a hearty, Hello Santa! What do we have here?

Oh, a very naughty boy, I’m afraid.

Well, come in, Santa. We’ll give him a nice warm bed for the night.

Ho, ho, ho. In you go, lad.

What the @$#&?

Ugh, ugh. No more bad words. It’s Christmas, said, Joe.

A few minutes later, after Jimi was told what he had done wrong, he was told he could make a phone call. He then made his second mistake that night. He called his mother.

Ma, it’s Jimi. I‘m in jail, Ma. Nothing bad, Ma. I just… Ma, I got arrested by @!$%*#@ Santa Claus.

Click.

And so, Jimi went to bed that night no doubt dreaming of Sugar Plum Fairies, shiny shims and Santa with handcuffs.

Ho, ho, ho!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Let there be Peace on Earth!

Finding Baby Jesus

In 1971, the rock band, The Who, released a recording of the song, “We Won’t Get Fooled again” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODKZGBrAtxY.  Written by Pete Townsend, it was a cynical look at both power and revolution.  Many of my generation misunderstood the song’s meaning.  They thought that by adopting  catchy slogans such as, “Question Authority” or aligning with “radical” political groups, they would bring about a better, more “just” world and not get fooled again. The sad thing is that nearly all of the problems that were besetting the world back then in ‘71, still are.  And, more so.  Townsend knew, I believe, that looking toward Power and Revolution as answers to what is wrong in the world is…futile and that by doing so we would get fooled again and again. Boy, was he right.

Here we are, half a century later (I shake my head as a write this!) and we are continually disappointed.  Politicians of every stripe have shown themselves less as true leaders than opportunists. Too many to count “religious leaders” have fallen from grace, leaving many of us shaken and bewildered. Neighbors have grown fearful, suspicious and angry with one another. Why?

Tell everyone who is discouraged, Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” Isaiah 35:4

2020 started out with so much promise and optimism. And then, in the blink of an eye, it started to unravel. Maybe our current unrest is all – or mostly – contrived. Maybe there are powers or forces that want to cause disruption and fear. Maybe there is a plan to have us turn against one another. Maybe.

“Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.'” Revelation 1:17

I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to what can be done about what’s going on out there.  Organize a protest? I don’t think so. Join a protest? Ah, NO!  Write to some “Elected Official” and tell them just what I think?  Just the mere thought makes me laugh.  After probably burning out more than a few brain cells (and having none to spare, believe me) I figured it out: There Is Nothing I Can Do About What’s Going On Out There. But, there is something I can do about what’s going on in here – within me.

“Immediately He spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.'” Mark 6:50

It is Advent. We await. We anticipate:  Not with Fear, but Hope. With Joy.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

This Christmas, the first in our new home here in Staunton, Virginia, we have set up several outside decorations. One of them is something that I have wanted for a long time, but never had the space to do it: a manger scene. One that I have admired and been touched by for its simplicity is a silhouette of The Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and The Infant Jesus lying in His crib.

Ours is set up in the front yard. It is constructed of heavy white plastic.  Although it is front and center, during the daytime, with a bright sun and a still dirt-filled front yard, it can be less noticed.

Manger

But, at night, when everything is darkest, a simple solar light shines on the crib. And there He is: The Baby Jesus. He is there during the day, of course, right in front of me. But, as I said, sometimes He’s hard to see. Do I just naturally see Baby Jesus during the darkest hours? Or, should I just look harder during the day?  Maybe.

B

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” John 14:27

How will you find the Baby Jesus this Christmas?