It's a gloomy day here in Northern Virginia. I'm sitting here with my daughter, snuggled up watching The Polar Express. Its at the part where the little kids sing "When Christmas Comes to Town," and I'm fighting back the tears.
Dear Santa, I believe.
I believe in the joy and love you stand for. For the innocence and tradition you represent. The astonishing number of people who don't believe baffles my mind. They don't believe because they think your represent all that wrong with our world today - greed, selfishness and commercialism. You've come to represent a lie we tell our children, that you're real and that you deliver presents to them. We tell our children the words of the song we have sung for years, "You better watch out, you better not cry. You better not pout, I'm telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town." You won't come if we've been naughty. And now we've lied to our children. Telling them that only if they are good will they get presents. How can our children believe anything we say once they find out the truth?
But I believe and I want my children to. Sure, my oldest two know that its only the magic of you that exists, that mommy and daddy put the presents out. But they have joy and happiness, and the benefit they get from keeping that magic alive, and the magic alive in their little brother.
There is so little joy and innocence left in this world. True and pure joy is hard to come by. Our world is tough, and so much hate and sadness exists. One by one our children are being stripped of all that makes them children. Imagination and play isn't flourishing as it once was. And Santa I think you represent all those things. Some may argue that my faith should stop me from the 'lie' that you are. But I don't think that you are that far removed from faith. Its true that St. Nicholas was a real person, and that he left coins and small gifts for the children of believers who left their shoes out. Each country and generation has added more to their Legend of Santa, and what Bishop Nicholas was is probably so far removed from what you become. But everything about you is a model of what we should be to our families, to our community and to the world.
In recent years I could feel myself become ashamed to say we believed. In a moment that has still stuck with me I was publicly teased by an adult, subtle as it was, for the use of you during Christmas. My belief in you is calling into question my faith in God, simply by the overwhelming amount of Christians I know that have made a choice to include you in the festivities. I never once judged someone for not including you, but every year I feel judged. I am conflicted. Is what I'm doing wrong? Will I get to heaven and be put to task for including you in our lives? I don't know.
But I do know that like that little boy in The Polar Express that lived his whole life hearing that bell. I never want to stop hearing it. And I hope my children never do either. That bell, to me, symbolizes more than just you, flying with reindeer bring me presents. It symbolizes love, joy, innocence, peace, thankfulness, giving and sharing.
I hope I always hear it.