Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
When Virginia Rose, our oldest granddaughter, spends the weekend with us recently, she overhears a segment on CBS' Sunday Morning, which MIL enjoys watching. They are discussing that famous editorial when a very young Virginia O'Hanlon pens a letter to The Sun, at her father's advice, asking if Santa Claus is real. Our Virginia is transfixed from the moment she hears her name!
Ironically, Virginia has recently posed questions to the adults in her life regarding the existence of Santa. It probably starts when I don't take extra precautions to hide whatever Easter chocolates are left over from the holiday. I not only stash these carelessly in our candy drawer for prying little eyes to see, but I also leave a basket of plastic eggshells I preserve from year to year in the downstairs toy closet. Not good, Gammie! Hey, once you figure out the Easter Bunny isn't the one hiding those eggs, it's a natural next step to count Santa out of the whole Christmas equation.
As adults, we know the real reasons for both seasons, yet we perpetuate the commercially generated lore so attractive to the young ones. Our own inner child longs to keep the magic and mystery alive for them, but are we doing them a disservice in the long run? Or in the spirit of Santa's generosity toward and love for all children, are we helping our kids more fully understand God's all-encompassing love for each and every one of us?
Below is the original Virginia inquiry, and an abbreviated version of the editor's (Francis Church - an atheist, according to Wikipedia) answer.
I am 8 years old. Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia, your little friends are wrong.
They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.
Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus.
It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.
There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.
It confounds me that this atheist editor, Church, (and yes, there is classic irony there, too!) wrote such inspirational advice to young Virginia so many long years ago. My inclination is to believe that this man spent his formative years immersed in the faith, yet the world and its temptations prevailed upon him. Still, what he learned in childhood somehow remained in his heart.
- Skepticism? We walk by faith, not by sight.
- Love, generosity, devotion? Love the Lord your God with all you heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
- No Santa Claus? No Virginias? We are made in God's image. Who are we that God should be mindful of us, yet He, the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe, deems we are worthy.
- Childlike faith? Jesus declared that the little children come to Him to receive His blessing and comfort.
- Poetry and romance? Oh, the Bible is rife with it! God is the master story-teller and weaver of words.
So after reading this, what do you think about Santa Claus? Do you believe? Can you help a young person transition from this dimension that mirrors Christ's love to embrace the real deal?
Honestly, I'm leaving the Santa Claus story up to Virginia's parents to tell when they are ready. It's really not my place to do so.
But I'm praying that the spirit of giving and love at Christmas will ever be alive in Virginia's heart, and that it will continue to live in yours!
Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!