by Ken Rolheiser
Bethlehem and the Spirit of St Nick

A Face book note explains when to inform children:
that there is no Santa - age 6 or 7; no tooth fairy – age 6; about wrestling – age 37.

My first experience of the Christmas gift came from the Christ Child. Santa came along later.

Christy Hutchison shares how she told her children there was no Santa. And it’s pretty much perfect. When her oldest son was ready she took him out “for coffee”, ordered drinks, and explained:

“You sure have grown an awful lot this year. You are taller, but I can see that your heart has grown, too. (Point out 2-3 examples of good deeds). In fact, your heart has grown so much that I think you are ready to become a Santa Claus.

“You probably have noticed that most of the Santas you see are people dressed up like him. Some of your friends might have even told you that there is no Santa. A lot of children think that, because they aren’t ready to BE a Santa yet, but YOU ARE.

“Tell me the best things about Santa. What does Santa get for all of his trouble? (lead the child from ‘cookies’ to the good feeling of having done something for someone else). Well, now YOU are ready to do your first job as a Santa!

“Be sure to maintain the proper conspiratorial tone. Have the child choose someone they know…a neighbor. The child’s mission is to secretly find out something that the person needs and then wrap it, deliver it, and never reveal where it came from. Being a Santa isn’t about getting credit. It’s unselfish giving.

“My oldest chose the ‘witch lady’ on the corner. She really was horrible… had a fence around the house and would never let the kids go in and get a stray ball.  He noticed that she came out every morning to get her paper in bare feet, so he decided she needed slippers.

“After dinner one evening, he slipped down to her house, and slid the package “merry Christmas from Santa.” under her driveway gate. We watched her waddle out to get the paper, pick up the present, and go inside. The next morning, as we drove off, there she was, out getting her paper–wearing the slippers.

“He was ecstatic. I had to remind him that NO ONE could ever know what he did, or he wouldn’t be a Santa.  One year, he polished up his bike, put a new seat on it, and gave it to one of our friend’s daughters. These people were very poor. We did ask the dad if it was ok. The look on her face, when she saw the bike on the patio with a big bow on it, was almost as good as the look on my son’s face.”

Hutchison points out that the Santa construct is not a lie that gets discovered, but an unfolding series of good deeds and Christmas spirit, and opens the most genius idea ever for breaking the Santa news.

The same scenario works for the Christ Child I experienced as a child. I remember being disappointed when I discovered the Christ Child was my older brother or sister dressed in a white gown. Ultimately I was led to a greater truth – in a real way we become Christ to one another. Whatever we do to the least of our brethren we do to Jesus (Matthew 25:40).

(578 words)