The kneeling Santa
For many years - probably since I began preaching - Santa Claus or
Father Christmas has been a problem for me. I haven't anything against
Santa himself. After all, he was originally St. Nicholas, whose feast
day is Dec. 6. If you say Santa Nicholas quickly, you will get Santa
Claus. My trouble was that he overshadowed the Christ child.
Just think of the Santa Claus parade in big cities. Where does the
Christ, born in a stable, fit in? Consider the Santa who reigns supreme
in the stores and takes the kids on his knee and gives them toys - for
which their parents have paid. If it came to a popularity contest at
that moment between Santa and Christ, who would win?
And yet, the very word Christmas means Christ-time. Even when Christmas
is abbreviated to Xmas, the X stands in Greek for the letters Ch. So,
Xmas is the short for Christmas. It is not Santa-time.
However, last year shortly before Christmas Day, I went into Broughton's
Religious Bookstore on Danforth Avenue in Toronto. To my surprise, I
spotted a statue depicting a small, but not too small, Santa kneeling
before the crib. I asked Brian Broughton to explain. He handed me a
very colourful book entitled, Santa and the Christ Child by Nicholas
Bakewell. He said, "Sit down and read that, Father. It gives you the
story." Nicholas Bakewell is a successful producer of motion pictures.
In addition, for over 30 years, he has been portraying the role of Santa
Claus for children - thousands of them. But he never failed to remind
the kids that Christmas is the birthday of Christ. Then, after all these
years, he was inspired to write a beautiful story about Santa Claus
and the Christ child.
The story begins in the first person singular. The pictures are simply
beautiful. "Hello from Santa's Village. This is Santa Claus speaking,
to tell you about a sequence of amazing and unforgettable events." Santa
goes on to tell how one morning, a few weeks before Christmas, he was
feeding the reindeer in the stable. To his surprise, he found a handsome
young boy of about 10 asleep in the hay. The boy asked if he could stay
and see how they prepared for Christmas. Santa agreed and introduced
him to the elves. When he took him into the carpenter's shop where the
elves were making toys, the boy showed intense interest and asked if
he could help. He displayed great aptitude and as a result of his skill,
everything was well ahead of schedule. Then tragedy struck.
While out searching for a lost reindeer, Santa slipped on the ice and
broke his leg. The doctor was called. He put the leg in plaster and
said, "Well, that settles it. You can't make your rounds this Christmas."
Everyone was terribly upset, except the boy. He moved into Santa's house
to look after him." He exercised the reindeer every day and continued
to make toys in the carpenter's shop. He even made a beautiful pair
of crutches, so that Santa could hobble round a bit. He had also screened
off a section of the workshop into which he would not allow the elves.
He had what he called "a secret project." Elves were bursting with curiosity,
but he would not let them know the secret. Even though there did not
seem to be any hope that Santa could make his trip, the boy told the
elves to keep working as hard as they could.
Then on Christmas Eve, the boy called the elves into the workshop and
showed them the secret project. It was a beautifully constructed conveyance
- like a chaise lounge, which could be attached to the back of the sleigh.
They pulled it round to Santa's house and showed it to him and the doctor.
The doctor said, "That's as good as a bed. No problem." So, they piled
the toys into the sleigh, helped Santa into the chaise lounge and away
they went above the clouds. They didn't miss a stop. The boy drove the
reindeers, Santa checked the lists from his bed, the elves climbed up
and down the chimneys and the entire enterprise was completed in record
time. Santa was delighted and thanked the boy saying, "Without you,
the children would have been without toys this year." Then the boy said,
"Santa, I know you must be tired, but can we make just one more stop?"
Santa said, "Sure, anywhere you like." The boy said, "I want to show
you where I was born."
They took off into the silent night, following a very bright star,
which Santa had never noticed in all his years of travel. But what Santa
did not realize was that they were not travelling through space - but
back through time! Soon they landed outside a humble stable. The boy
helped Santa onto his crutches and he hobbled towards the stable. Then
he noticed that the boy had disappeared. He entered the stable and there,
like the shepherds and wise men, he found the child with Mary, his mother.
Santa dropped his crutches, fell on his knees and wept. So ends the
story of the Kneeling Santa.
Of course, this story is not historically or factually true. It is
a story, but it has a message for us and the message is this:
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. Everything else
- Santa Claus, gifts, parties, plays and dances - has a place and meaning
on one condition. The condition is that, like the Kneeling Santa, these
seasonal features and festivities begin annually to reawaken in us the
true meaning of Christmas.
"Long time ago in Bethlehem, so the Holy Bible say, Mary's boy child,
Jesus Christ, was born on Christmas Day. Trumpets sound and angels sing,
listen to what they say, that man will live for ever more - because
of Christmas Day." This article orginally appeared in the December 1987