We pulled up in the driveway of Granny’s house on a cold, moonlit Christmas Eve. Jumping and skipping to the front porch, we stomped our feet on the welcome mat to leave most of the snow outside, and opened the front door. Our cousins piled out of their own station wagon, and followed closely on our heels.
Strangely, Granny wasn’t dispensing hugs from her usual post just inside. We slowed down a little, removing mittens and boots.
“Good-bye Santa!” That was our grandmother’s voice, coming from the back of the house.
Like a herd of mustangs, we galloped through the living room, into the kitchen, and out onto the screened-in back porch. Granny was leaning out the screen door, waving. “Oh, my goodness. You just missed him.” Granny closed the door and wiped her hands on her apron.
We stood there for quite awhile, our noses plastered to the screens, peering into the starry sky hoping for a glimpse of the tail-lights on Santa’s sleigh.
Granny’s loud farewell helped explain the fact that we were going to open presents soon after our arrival. None of this waiting till morning like most of the rest of the world. It was perfectly logical that Santa had to start his journey somewhere. We were just fortunate that Granny’s house was one of the first on his route.
A few Christmases later, I began to questions how Santa could sit in front of so many Christmas trees in so many parks and department stores across the country at the same time. This was my introduction to the idea of Santa’s helpers. I was perfectly happy giving my list of wants to an assistant, because I was confident they would be communicated to the big guy in plenty of time for Christmas. Still, there was always the chance that you would run into the boss himself.
One especially cold December day, my sister and I debated about whether this was the “real” Santa as we waited in line.
“He’s not fat enough”
“That beard looks fake.”
“His glasses are too new.”
We hopped from one foot to the other, anticipating the candy cane and the cup of hot chocolate that awaited us after our brief visit. Just before I sat on his knee, the words from this velvet-clad man shocked me.
“How are you, Jenny?” What? He knew my name?
“I’ll be right with you, Toni.” And my sister’s name, too?
Okay, so this Santa’s helper might have been local. He may have known us from church, or he did business with my mom at the bank. The really strange thing though, was that he could tell us apart. Most people saw us when we were together, and didn’t bother keeping us straight. They said our name like one word, Toni-and-Jenny. But the real Santa would undoubtedly take the time to sort things out. Could it be?
As other kids my age stopped believing in Santa, I didn’t dare. After all, in all the stories and movies, the children who didn’t believe were very disappointed on Christmas morning. I couldn’t take the risk. Mom’s explanation made things easy for me. She said Santa was the Spirit of Christmas. As far as I knew, a spirit wasn’t bound by normal rules, and used magic to get his mission accomplished. I was completely satisfied.
On a clear night long ago, a group of shepherds watched their flocks. Maybe the older men told stories around the fire. The younger ones probably scoffed at all the talk of a great king who would come to save their nation. Kings came and went, making rules and flaunting their wealth. What would make this king so special? One of the stories they’d heard even pinpointed the town the king would be born in. Bethlehem wasn’t a very regal place in those days.
Then, an amazing thing happened. The sky was filled with light and strange beings, singing praises to the Lord. Nothing like this had ever happened before. The men tried to hide in fright. But the angels told them that they had wonderful news. The long awaited king had been born, and a star would lead them to his birthplace. This was much more exciting than tending sheep!
When they arrived at the small stable in Bethlehem, everything was as the angel said. The tiny baby didn’t look much like a king. His mother and father were dressed just like regular people. Instead of a fancy bed in a palace, he was lying in a manger. It all made sense.
This is what was so special about the new king. He was just like us, just like those shepherds. This was the wonderful news that the angels had been singing about. The shepherds went on their way, telling everyone what they had seen. The great King had finally arrived!
May your Holidays be filled with joy as you remember the night that all of the pieces came together.