Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
Words: Josef Mohr, circa 1816-1818
Music: Franz X. Gruber, circa 1820
I would like to make something clear right from the start. Santa Claus and I have had a love hate relationship for over fifty years. He loves to sneak into my house on Christmas Eve. I hate him because I have never caught him red-handed, or is it red-suited. Oh well, I guess it doesn’t matter what it is called. What matters is that I have been a failure over most of my lifetime. And this failure has managed to cross over many generations. There will be more about this multi-generational curse later.
I am convinced that his ho-ho-ho’s become even louder as he remembers all of the close encounters we have had. Every time I pass a decorated store window, go through a festive light display, view television, or listen to the radio, he taunts me with his image, his music (Here comes Santa Claus), and that incessant ho-ho-ho.
This conflict with the man in red started innocently enough with a Christmas tradition of my family. As I have come to understand, we were poor doing my early years (many people were). We never lived in one house very long, because my father was always looking for better work during the postwar years of the early 50’s. Work had to be close. Our car was not dependable. My mother did not drive. Because of this situation, we did not have much of an inventory when it came to Christmas decorations. Plus, buying a living Christmas tree during those days was expensive. We did not buy anything that could not be brought home in a red wagon. The first Christmas of my memory was without a tree. So, Christmas was simple. It was special, but simple.
Every Christmas Eve, we would have an early supper. As I grew, suppertime became earlier and earlier. For as soon as supper was finished, we would go to bed waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. As soon as he finished leaving our toys, fruit and nuts, and ribbon candy, my parents would rush to our bedside and wake us up. Up until this time, there were no presents in the house. Santa brought everything with him.
I was three years old (getting ready to turn four in January) when I first became aware of that sneaky rascal called Santa. I had settled down for a long winter’s nap (Oops! Wrong story) on a pallet in our only bedroom with my mother and baby brother listening to music from the radio (Yes Virginia, there was no television). My father was out of the house on an errand. All of a sudden, he came running into the house shouting. “I just saw Santa Claus making a delivery down the street. He stopped me and asked if Lloyd was asleep in bed.”
Oh my! Santa Claus is asking about me and I am not asleep. What a horrible thought. I clinched my eyes closed and covered my head. The next thing I remembered was being awaked by my parents with toys around my pallet and apples on the table. Santa had come. I had missed him.
The next year, we traveled over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house (Oops again! Really wrong story). My Granny lived in Paris, Texas. We went to her house to celebrate Christmas Eve. It was there where I almost caught Santa again. While taking a bath with my little brother behind a closed bathroom door, I heard such a clatter (Sorry) that I started hollering. “What’s going on out there?”
At that moment, the door flew open. My father came running in and threw a towel over me.
“Come on,” he said. “We can catch him!”
We ran to the door. Pointing down the lane, he exclaimed, “There he goes. Don’t you see him?”
I did. Maybe. I am sure it was his backside.
The next year on Christmas Eve, I couldn’t go to sleep. Suddenly, I heard a pounding at the door and that incessant ho-ho-ho. Down the hall he came. Ho-ho-ho. The doorknob began to turn. Ho-ho-ho. I was scared. I was not asleep. Santa was at the door.
I trembled as I felt him lean in to look closely in my eyes.
“Is Lloyd asleep?”
I heard my mother answer that I was. Then, Santa kissed me on the cheek.
Well, that is how it all started. My quest to catch Mr. Santa Claus never was successful. I really thought it was all over. My near misses with Santa were never as close again until nearly thirty years later.
After I married, I left the tradition of Santa visiting on Christmas Eve. When we started having children, Santa would leave our children’s presents early on Christmas morning. But that one fateful Christmas Eve was different. We left our home to go over to my sister’s house for Christmas Eve. In our house sat a Christmas tree with wrapped packages around it. When we returned, to the surprise of two doubting adolescents and a horrified father, we found toys set up around the tree and a soda pop missing from the fridge. He was back to torment me.
Now, as I have gotten older, Christmas is very special with two grandsons. I have enjoyed each year as my oldest has become more and more excited about this special time of year. But I am watching and know that he is coming. It is just a matter of time. Hey, Santa. Come out. Come out, wherever you are.
What has this story to do with theology and culture? Just as the fear of Santa caused me to resist his true intention for me (the kiss on the cheek), the fear of God can cause us to resist Him. God will approach us on His terms. His terms are a virgin born Savior that went to the cross for you and me.
Merry Christmas to all. And to all, a good night.