I know I’ve blogged about movies a lot, but they make such an indelible impression. Holiday movies even more so. In fact, I have to watch my annual Christmas flicks with a box of tissues to go along with my popcorn. I’m such a sap.
Last night, I sat down with my 9-year-old daughter to watch “Miracle on 34th Street” (sorry, but I like the 1994 version with Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott, Mara Wilson, and Richard Attenborough as Santa). My daughter is right at the precarious age where she’s doubting the validity of St. Nick. This year brought a very unexpected dilemma for which I have another 360 days or so to figure out just what I’m going to say next year.
See, we have this big–and I mean BIG–deal in our house about lying. Our kids know we would grant mercy for grand theft auto before we would for deceit. So now I’m under the gun for why I’ve “lied” to my kids for the last 13 years as to my profound belief in the existance of Santa Claus.
Now, anticipating this revelation for my children, I have changed my tune a little bit since my daughter first asked, “Is there really a Santa Claus?” My response since then has been a safe, “He’s as real as you want him to be.”
For me, I wish there was a Santa Clause. Not only would it keep my bank account a little more pleasantly plump, but it would save me witnessing the fistfights that break out in Toys’R’Us each year. I mean really, you have to be suicidal to shop on Black Friday.
Not only that, but the whole embodiment of what Santa represents is something so far removed from the reality of everyday life. I think the miracle of a red-suited Santa, toy-making elves, flying reindeer, and the world’s fastest shop-n-drop delivery system is what makes even the scrouge-iest grown-up become a child again, even if it’s just for a few hours. We strive to be more indulgent of family who would normally drive us up the Christmas tree, we smile at our neighbors even if we can read the fine print of assembly instructions by the blaze of their Christmas lights, and we grin and bear it when the Christmas carolers off-tune rendition of “Silent Night” would make Franz Gruber roll over in his grave.
But, anyway, back to the movie. Mara Wilson plays a six-year-old going on 60. She’s as practical and pragmatic as her mother, who we come to find out had her dreams dashed as a new mom and now keeps everyone and everything at arm’s length including the charming Brian Bedford, the white-beared gentleman she hired for her department store, and any silly such nonsense about Santa Claus.
I thought back to times when I’ve had my dreams crushed either from cruelty or carelessness and remember wanting to cocoon my heart from the world, protect myself from pain ever hitting me in the same way again. In modern-day lingo, we call it self-preservation, but bottom line, it’s just hardening our hearts. The problem with doing this is you can’t selectively seal yourself off. It’s all or nothing.
I think God understands this more than we can possibly fathom. How many times have we carelessly crushed his heart, yet he became the epitome of vulnerability when he placed his most precious possession—his son—in our cruel and feeble hands?
Santa the person may not be real anymore (when alive, he was St. Nicholas of Myra, a 4th century Greek bishop), but his spirit lives on as it should, as should anything that calls us to be children again (Matthew 18:3), as anything that calls us to believe in something purely on faith.
Santa may not really ride the lines of latitude and longitude each Christmas Eve, but there is another who—at my humblest word—rides the wings of wind to be at my side. If we can all be transformed each December by the presence of someone long dead, why can’t we be daily transformed by someone who is alive and watching over us from someplace loftier than the North Pole? And if I can convince my daughter that someone as loving and giving as Santa exists, even if just in our hearts, then convincing her of a loving God that gives her gifts everyday of her life, should be cake. With red frosting and green sprinkles.
Call me naïve (and many of you parents-of-teens are doing so right now), but this is my crazy logic for the whole thing and hopefully how I’m going to approach the subject with my daughter.
Now all I need to do is figure out how I’m also going to tell her about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.