Santa Claus: when my kids ask…

**SPOILER ALERT** if you 1) can read and 2) are on facebook or WordPress and 3) are reading this instead of watching cat videos, I assume you are mature enough to handle the real deal… 

I love Christmas. The whole shebang. For as long as I can remember I’ve started my Christmas shopping in June. Started sneaking listens to Christmas music in September. Stockpiled glittery red dresses and Christmas shirts for my kids from thrift stores year round. 

I love the traditions the cookies and the stories that surround Christmastime. 

But last week, when my 5 year old asked me if Santa was real… I couldn’t not tell him the truth. 

Because Jesus. 

There are so many stories that circulate this time of year. Elf on the shelf. Rudolph. Frosty the Snowman. Santa. Buddy the Elf. That eggnog tastes good. The stories make this time of year sparkle. They fill us with whimsy and wonder and excitement for what is to come. But they don’t hold a candle to the other Story we tell this time of year.

Sometimes I wonder what happens in our children’s minds when the truth gets mixed in with all that fiction. 

So. 

When my sweet little boy asked me if Santa was real, I just couldn’t say yes. I just couldn’t perpetuate the confusion, the dilution, that is Christmas these days. 

So here is what I said: 

“Well Colton, answer me this… Are superheroes real? (this is a conversation we’ve already had multiple times) 

“We know it’s really fun to pretend that there are superheroes.   But the truth is, there’s no one magic (wo)man that can beat up all the bad guys. Instead, there are lots and lots of good people who go to work every day as policemen and firefighters that help protect us all and keep us safe. And there are even more people, just regular people like you and me, who do kind things all the time. They help people that need help and work to make our world a happier place. And all of us working together can do more than one superhero could ever do.

“and Santa Claus is the person we say brings gifts and joy on Christmas Eve. But really, what brings us happiness is each other. The things we do together. The family we get to see, the special things we do as friends and family. And of course the gifts we choose for each other. But  the thing that truly brings us joy is the reason we celebrate Christmas – that baby Jesus came to the world and through Him God sent his son to save us from our sins. That’s what we are really celebrating at Christmas time. 

“I’m telling you this because I want you to know that I will never lie to you about things that are really important. When I tell you something is true, I want you to believe me. We can tell lots of stories and have lots of fun, but at the end of the day I want to always be someone you know will tell you the truth.”

And after all of that, my sweet son looked me in the eye and said in all seriousness: “Mommy you are wrong. I KNOW Santa is real. I sat on his lap.”

Oh well. 

You win some you lose some. 

And to all a good night. 

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Advent-ures Part II


I have to brag for a moment – I have the best neighbors in the world. I live in this magical cul-de-sac full of smiling people who do kind things for one another. One of those kind things included coming home to two plastic wrapped chocolate Advent calendars one afternoon early in December. 

I’m not sure if you have children in this stage, or remember what it was like to be in this stage, but things don’t get much better than chocolate filled Advent calendars. Each day you get to poke your fingernail into a fresh perforated square, open a never before opened door, and pull out one single perfect piece of molded chocolate candy. What will be today? A trumpet? A teddy bear? An Angel? 

This delicious anticipation also happens to be equally matched with a dizzying sense of loss after the box is opened and the chocolate is consumed. Immediately, you want to open the next day’s door. To eat the next day’s candy. To hoard all of tomorrow’s blessings today.

Luckily for me, my advanced age and lifetime of wisdom keeps me from coveting my future self. I am perfectly content to take each day at a time and not spend my life wishing for the future… 

*oh wait*

No, that’s actually what I spend the majority of my time doing. Wishing for the next piece of chocolate in my metaphorical Advent calendar. Wishing for non-metaphorical chocolate at all times as well.

I think that it is very significant that two of the most celebrated times in the liturgical year, Advent and Lent, are both centered around waiting. We spend our entire lives waiting. Waiting for the next life stage. Waiting to achieve a goal. Waiting for this to trial to pass, or for that far away blessing to come. Thinking that life will truly be happening whenever {fill in the blank} finally happens and you are no longer {fill in the blank}. 

But isn’t it true that we are perpetually waiting? And isn’t it true that its in the waiting that we grow? It is my experience that when things are going smoothly, I seldom feel driven to fully rely on God. When I can see my way out of the situation, I don’t often pause to lift it up in prayer. When I feel in control of my life, I tend to feel like I deserve credit. 

It is in the waiting that I realize this story is not about me. 

It is in the waiting that I remember to turn, again and again, to my Provider. 

It is in the waiting that I am shown my insufficiencies. The areas I need to grow. The ways I deal with others that are hurtful, sinful, unloving.

The waiting forces me to grow. It forces me to turn to God. It forces me to become a better disciple, mother, wife, friend.

Waiting is not a trial, but a gift. And an extremely useful gift – dare I say even more useful than the Instant Pot you’ve been eyeing on Amazon? In this season of Advent, we are waiting for the celebration. For the Messiah that was promised – long waited for. The covenant that was fulfilled in ways unforeseen. 

Even when this gift was given, it was in the form of a baby. The fulfillment of the covenant was happening, and yet still creation waited. For the baby to grow. To learn to eat, to walk, to crawl. To speak, to pray, to change the world. Even when the promise was being incarnated, there was still waiting. And even now, as people of the New Covenant, we wait.

What a gift we have been given. To wait expectantly, fully confident in a God that will not fail us. To realize that we don’t know how the story will play out, but we do know the One who is writing that story. 

As you wait for Christmas day this year, allow the waiting to be formative. Ask God to show you how this period of waiting will bear fruit. And don’t forget to be grateful for the gift that waiting is to you, to me, to all of us.

Isaiah 40:30-31 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. 

Advent

Truth: By this time last week, I was already sick of Christmas.  Those of you who know me may have a hard time believing that.  Christmas has always been my thing.  When my husband and I were dating, we had to have several (heated) conversations about when the appropriate date to start playing Christmas music would be.  (me- October 1st.  him- December 23rd)  However, working at a church makes Christmas your busiest time of year.  I have two MAJOR church events I am coordinating that happen between December 21st and 24th, involving most of that week and about 200 people.  Overwhelming.

And then there is the fact that I have two children.  All of a sudden, there is so much pressure to create Christmas memories.  Pictures with Santa.  Tours through the lights.  The perfect tree.  The decorated house.  The Pintastic holiday cards.  The music.  The cookies.  The candy.  The parties.  The Christmas PJs and Christmas dresses and angel breakfast and nativity plays and presents for daycare teachers and… And… AND…

It was December 8th.  My house was not decorated.  I had no tree.  No Christmas cards.  No energy.   I hadn’t been able to go to worship at my church for 2 weeks because I was too busy doing OTHER things for church.  I wanted it done.

Amy, my pastor/supervisor/friend, gave me great advice.  Advent is about celebrating the approach of Christmas, not its onslaught.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed that Christmas is only 3 weeks away, savor the fact that you still have 3 weeks to prepare for the coming of our Lord.

ad·vent
ˈadˌvent/
noun
 The arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.

Advent is the discipline of anticipation.  It is about arrival, not about adherence.  It is the practice of preparing our hearts and minds to meet the Lord.  It is not about decorations, trees, or creating new memories.  It is instead, about savoring the shared memory that we as Christians hold together.  Christ has come.  As a baby, as a Savior, as our Sacrificial Lamb.  This season is about privilege, not obligation.  And for me, it may not be about the date on the calendar.  I can celebrate the miracle of the birth of Christ just as honestly the week after Christmas as the week before.  And perhaps that needs to be part of my personal spiritual walk, at least in this stage of life.

But that doesn’t resolve what to do with the STUFF that comes along with Christmastime… And here is where I have landed.  I am going to try and mine the original intent from these practices.  I want to see these things as part of the celebration of advent.  The lights can remind us of Christ, the LIGHT of the world.  The parties, a way to celebrate this miracle with those who we hold dear.   The cards, a way to send our thoughts and love to our people far away.  The gifts, a chance to remember the Gift we have been given.  And if something robs me of my joy (*cough* ELF ON THE SHELF), it gets eliminated.

And now, from a better place of mind and heart, I can say,

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Let your heart be light… 

nativity

And then there is this… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgOIYvDgSLg