TITLE: Santa's Magic
By Ann Wilds
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Sammy Warren was not your typical twelve year old boy. Oh, he was a typical boy in many ways. He preferred Saturdays to school days. He hated asparagus. He loved to play ball with his friends. He would prefer to be dirty than clean. He was beginning to think that a few girls weren’t as icky as before and he especially loved his pet border collie, Cody. How he wasn’t typical was that he had a deep belief in the magic and mystery of life. He knew that there was a force greater than him controlling the universe and believed that anything was possible. He knew this as certainly as he knew his name.
Normally, Sammy was a happy kid who didn’t let much bother him. But on this day, he wasn’t feeling very happy. Even the thought of playing frisbee with Cody didn’t bring the usual smile to his face. Cody didn’t understand what was bothering Sammy but he knew something must be wrong, so he just lay down at Sammy’s feet and whined a little. Sammy was deep in thought and the more he thought, the more upset he became until his head was spinning like the water from his bath going down the drain. Suddenly, he stood up. He had reached a decision. He grabbed his ball cap and Cody’s leash and together they ran out of the door. He had decided that the only way to find an answer to his dilemma was to go see Nana, his grandmother. She didn’t treat him like most adults did. She listened to his thoughts and talked to him as an equal.
When Sammy burst through the back door, his grandmother knew something was wrong. But she waited for him to tell her in his own time and way. After eating a few of her fresh baked oatmeal cookies, Sammy worked up the nerve to tell her his problem. At first his story came out jumbled and mixed up, but Nana was able to piece it all together. During PE class, some of the other boys began harassing a ten year old. At first Sammy didn’t know what was going on but as he listened to their words, he understood. The younger boy believed in Santa Claus and the older boys were taunting him, telling him that he was a big baby for believing in such little kid nonsense. Before things got out of hand, the coach broke things up and the older boys were punished. But the picture nagged Sammy the rest of the day. It bothered him that bigger kids were picking on a younger one but what was bothering him the most was that the ten year old wasn’t alone in believing in Santa Claus; Sammy did too. He knew that other kids said there was no such thing but it always felt like there was truth to it in his heart. Now after the scene in PE, he wasn’t so sure. He needed to find out from someone he could trust one way or the other. That person would always be his grandmother. No matter what, if he asked her she would tell him the truth. So, after spilling out his tale he asked her, Is Santa Claus dead?
After pouring herself a cup of tea, Nana came and sat down beside him. She didn’t answer his question straight away. Instead, she asked him to tell her what he knew about Santa Claus. Sammy told her that Santa Claus was a kind man who flew around the world in one night in a sled pulled by flying reindeer to give gifts to good boys and girls.
She took a cookie for herself and asked him if the children that lived in the Children’s Mission Home were bad children. Sammy was surprised at this question, but he knew that Nana was serious, so he spent time thinking about the kids he had met at the Christmas party his church’s youth group had put on for the mission home last year. He thought of Susie, who was so happy just to be given a towel with her name embroidered on it. He thought of Daniel who didn’t open his present right away because he was helping a younger boy put batteries in his remote controlled car. They weren’t bad children, in fact they were some of the nicest kids he’d ever meet. So he looked at Nana and answered her question. No, they are not bad children they just don’t have parents.
Then Nana smiled a deep warm smile at him and said, No, Sammy, Santa is not dead. That answers your question but there is more if you want to learn it. I think you are ready. But I’ll let you decide. Sammy told her that he wanted to know everything. He was ready to learn the truth no matter what. So this was how Sammy discovered that Santa was so much more than he’d always believed.
Nana told him that it was true that Santa was kind and full of love; someone who helped children and people in need but that he didn’t fly around the world to give out presents to children. If he did, why would the children at the Children’s Mission Home need presents from the church? Sammy was now very confused. He felt relieved that Santa was real but didn’t understand it all so he kept quite while Nana spoke. She told him that the real Santa was a normal man whose name was Nicolas. He was a Christian monk who was born in 280 AD in a small village in what is today Turkey. He was born into wealth but choose to dedicate his life and possessions to helping others in the name of Christ. He helped many and would sometimes surprise those in need by secretly placing money in their shoes as they dried on the window sill or in their socks as they dried by the fireplace next to an open window. Nicholas became known as the protector of children after many stories of how he saved children from many dangers. He was much loved and after his death, he was named a Saint by the church. To honor his memory and celebrate his life, people held a feast each year on Dec. 6th, which was the day he died. Saint Nicholas was the most popular Saint in all of Europe. But Nana, Sammy said, You told me he was not dead! Patience, she replied. I know this is confusing but soon you will understand.
She went on to tell him how in honor of Nicholas, people began to exchange gifts and leave surprises for the children on his feast day. When Dutch settlers moved to America in the 1700’s they brought this tradition with them. The name Santa Claus is the American version of his Dutch nickname, Sinter Klass a shortened version of Sint Nikolaas, Dutch for Saint Nicholas. When the church began to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th, calling it Christmas, it was only natural that the exchanging of gifts and the saint who was the protector of children who was also honored in December would become associated with the new Christmas holiday. Over time, the American tradition of Santa Claus has spread across much of the world and it is a tradition of wonder and magic for children everywhere.
Feeling even more confused than before, Sammy felt very sad. How could Santa be alive if he was dead? How could Christmas ever feel special again? Sammy put his arms around Cody and pressed his face into his fur. He could feel the tears at the edges of his eyes and didn’t want Nana to see them. Softly, Nana began to sing “Silent night, holy night, son of God, love’s pure light. Radiant beams from thy holy face, with the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus Lord at thy birth. Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.” Sammy, she said, I want you to think back to the Children’s Mission Home party. Think about what you told me as we left that night. Sammy thought back. He remembered how hard his church youth group had worked to earn money for the gifts they bought. He remembered how he secretly resented having to spend a Saturday night at the party instead of spending the night with his baseball team. He remembered how he’d forgotten all of that at the party. How warm he felt inside as the kid’s faces lit up as they saw them coming up the walk. How tired he felt at the end of the party but charged up too. How he’d smiled at the joy that they all showed that night. Sammy looked at his grandmother and said, I told you how helping all of those kids felt like it was magical.
Nana smiled her warm, gentle smile and said, It was magical, then she reached down and pulled him up beside her. Sammy, most people aren’t as aware of the magic and mystery of our world as you and I are. We know that God and his goodness swirl through our natural world. We can feel it. Others only know it and some don’t even have a clue. I believe that Nicholas could feel it too. That was why he loved people so much. He didn’t love them with just his love; he loved them with God’s love. And when that happens, it is magical. At the party, you loved those kids with God’s love. For a small time you saw them as God sees them- his much loved children. Anytime we in our world join with God in loving others, something magical happens. That’s why Christmas is such a magical time. For a short time, thousands of people are focused on loving others they way God loves us all.
Sammy thought about how Christmas always seemed magical. It was as if he could reach out and touch it when walking through the town. He knew what Nana said was true. God’s love is magic.
Sammy, Nana continued, That is how Santa Claus still lives. When normal people do good deeds out of love or when friends and family bestow gifts of love on each other, his spirit lives on. Knuckleheads will only see Santa Claus as a children’s make-believe person. But always remember that as long as his memory lives in your heart, Santa Claus is alive.
There was a little seed of sadness inside Sammy after hearing the truth, really just because his naivety was gone. No more would he wonder what Santa was going to give him. But a new feeling was growing inside him too, a feeling of warmth and joy. He knew it was God’s spirit. And he knew Santa Claus would always be alive, not the one on pictures with rosy cheeks and reindeer but the Santa Claus who lived out sharing God’s grace and mercy. Now he understood that he was being called too, to work to love others with God’s eyes.
He was already beginning to make plans about this year’s party at the Children’s Mission Home and how maybe his baseball team would want to invite them to play with them and teach them about baseball. He knew the truth, these children may not have parents but they had God’s great love.
Sammy grabbed a cookie and hugged Nana. He told her she was the best and as he did he looked deep in her eyes. He could see the love she had for him shining through. It was magical.
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