The Day Jesus replaced Santa Claus
by Cinda Elmer
It was one of those mornings. It just seemed nothing was going right and time was passing way too fast. “Hurry Tony, we’re going to be late.” My four and a half year old grandson was spending the weekend and I had planned a special excursion to see Santa Claus. But plans have a way of taking a different direction. And that is exactly what happened on that special morning.
“Now hurry and finish your breakfast. Grammy has a surprise for you.” I could barely understand the mumbles coming from my grandson as he shoveled food down. “A surprise?” he responded with his big brown eyes finally showing some interest. “Yes, now go brush your teeth and let Grammy help you get dressed so we can go or we will miss the surprise”. With the last bite of breakfast down Tony looked up and said, “I already brushed my teeth”. As I looked at my grandson’s angelic face my mind was racing to figure out when he had accomplished this. “Honey, when did you brush your teeth?” Then with the most serious and innocent voice he said, “Yesterday!” As I fought back the laughter I urged him to get going. Finally after much prompting we were on our way to see Santa Claus.
I felt a sigh of relief as I buckled Tony into his car seat. I knew the hard part was over and we were on our way to have our wonderful adventure. As we traveled down the road I turned on the radio to Christmas music and thought, “what a wonderful time of year it is”. We would have just enough time to make it. We were going to see Santa Claus. But as you might have already guessed this was just too easy to be true. As I pulled into the parking lot, I gasped! It was full. I silently thought to myself, “This is just one of those days”. I quickly found a parking space across the street. Tony and I sprinted across the parking lot into the mall or as much as one can sprint with a four and a half year old in hand. And there we got in line to see Santa Claus. It was a long, long, long line.
Of course, we were at the end of the line. I couldn’t even see the entrance of the store much less view Santa visiting with the children. It was just going to be one of those days. But I was determined we were going to see Santa Claus! As we waited in line, I could see the parents and children ahead of us becoming tired and frustrated with the long wait. I decided I had better do something constructive with the time or it would soon be me and Tony becoming tired and frustrated. Hmm? I wondered what could I do? Then it came to me. I’ll tell the story about Santa Claus, the reindeer and the North Pole to keep him entertained and make the anticipation of seeing Santa even more fun.
“Well, Tony, this is going to be great” Tony looked up at me with those big brown eyes, patiently tolerating another one of Grammy’s surprises. I looked down and said, “Santa only comes once a year on Christmas. We’re so lucky to get to see him.” I went on explaining that he comes from the North Pole that is far away. Tony didn’t say anything. He just patiently listened to me as I continued talking about the toy factory and the reindeer. By now the other families and children, bored by the wait, were also listening to my story. As we moved forward and inched closer to seeing Santa I continued my story. My plan was working. Tony was so involved in the story of Santa Claus that he wasn’t even complaining about the wait.
I was talking about the special presents that Santa would bring to good boys and girls when I was interrupted by Tony tugging on my hand, “Grammy? My teacher at church school says Jesus came at Christmas.” Stunned and taken back for a minute I replied. “Well, yes Tony that’s true.” Tony continued as though he had something really important that he had to tell me. “My teacher said Jesus is my present and that He is with me all the time.” Caught by surprise, I began feeling uncomfortable as the families and children around us appeared to be awaiting my response. “Well, yes Tony, that is true too.” As I struggled to think of something profound to say, Tony continued. “They gave presents to Jesus when He was a baby. Are we going to give Jesus a present?” I answered, “Well, yes Tony but right now we are going to see Santa. You get to sit on his lap and tell him what you want for Christmas. Won’t that be fun?” There was no response.
Then once again I felt a tug on my hand and he said, “Grammy?” And I replied, “Yes Tony.” He then looked up at me with those big brown eyes and said, “I don’t want to see Santa”. I thought to myself, “This is just what I was expecting. He is tired of waiting.” But I was determined that he would get to see Santa. I was wondering how I was going to make the wait easier when he said, “Grammy, I want to sit on Jesus’ lap and give Him a present.
Suddenly my holiday world was put in perspective by a four and half year old child. Tears began to flow as I knelt down on my knees beside my grandson. Right there, in the middle of the shopping mall and in a Santa Claus line I found myself saying a prayer as I hugged God’s precious child. He had a greater understanding of Christmas than many of us in that Santa Claus line. As I hugged Tony, I whispered, “Do you want to go home? Grammy will read you a special story from a very special book that your church teacher uses? I felt his little arms hug me tight as he whispered, “yeah”. As I stood up and looked around I saw parents with tears in their eyes too. I took Tony’s hand. As we left I noticed we were not the only ones to leave the Santa Claus line that day. It was time to sit on Jesus’ lap and give Him a present. It had been one of those days. One of those days I hope I never forget.
How wonderful it would be if we would anxiously wait in long lines to sit on Jesus’ lap and give Him a present. As I thought of Santa Claus and the focus he receives from children and parents as well, an idea came to mind. What if all the churches had a small live Nativity? The children could give non-perishable food gifts and have their pictures taken within the Nativity scene. The food items could be donated to the needy and the children’s Nativity pictures could be shared with friends and family. And we could begin to put Christ back in Christmas. We could give Jesus a present.