Blogger’s Note: This originally ran as a column, with my clean-cut and -shaven mug alongside, in the Pioneer daily newspaper, Big Rapids, Michigan, circa December 1997 (maybe the Dec. 16 edition?) under the headline “If you believe, Santa will visit you, too.” I didn’t write the headline. As requested, Suz — Merry Christmas!
I cracked a joke the other day, about deer hunting and reindeer, and found myself on the receiving end of a lengthy tongue-lashing from a colleague of mine.
“How can you say that?” she said. “How could you even think of shooting a reindeer?”
“I’ve heard they’re good eating,” I said. “How could you think of hunting whitetails?”
“That’s different,” she replied. “I could never eat Santa’s reindeer.”
“Nor could I — I wouldn’t dream of shooting Santa’s reindeer.”
“How would you tell them apart?”
“Santa’s reindeer fly.”
She looked at me and rolled her eyes. “Reindeer do not fly,” she said.
Don’t they? With an attitude like that, I suspect not — at least not around her.
Long before St. Nicholas of Myra began his charitable work in anonymity — long before reindeer flew — gifts and homage were given by the rich and the poor, the wise and the simple, to a child in Bethlehem. That child, named Jesus Christ, is regarded by many to be the Savior — the Son of God come down for mankind’s salvation.
Believe what you will, but as a man Jesus told us if we but had true faith the size of a mustard seed, we could tell the mountain to move and it would.
That’s nearly as far-fetched as flying reindeer.
We are skeptics, one and all — I suspect not one of us would step up to the foot of the mountain and ask it to move, even if no one was watching. And our doubtfulness gets worse the older we get: some of us learn Christmas comes when we laugh and jot From Santa on a gift tag and think how quaint the notion is.
We disbelieve to the point of tradition — we tell our children that Santa does not leave presents for grown-ups.
Rubbish. I am the beneficiary of a midnight visit by that plump and fur-clad Christmas sprite each year. He no longer delivers toys and candy; his brand of cheer is more subtle now — a greater, more spiritual gift. He is a Robin Hood for the soul, the merriest of merry men, stealing smiles from folks with smiles to spare and giving them to those who lack.
St. Nicholas was a believer with enough faith to be canonized. Rest assured, he believed in miracles — in fact, he was required to [have performed] miracles to receive sainthood. If faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains, certainly Santa has the faith required to make reindeer fly, to circle the globe in a night and to find his way into each and every home regardless of the size, type or presence of a chimney. He believes he can, and he does.
“What of those people less fortunate?” you may ask. “Where is Santa Claus for them, when Christmas Eve rolls around?”
We fortunate souls who have what we need this season and find ourselves wanting what we don’t — we who are blessed with plenty — are visited but once a year by old St. Nick, but don’t believe for a minute that he sits by the fire for the rest of the year. The Bishop of Myra continues his charity work every day, making certain the needs of those who depend on him are met.
We are graced my his presents annually, and are quick to forget what he brings. The needy he helps on a day-to-day basis — again, his greatest works are the most subtle.
Father Christmas is as real as the holiday is holy, and he believes in you, regardless. Does he know — can he know — if you are sleeping or awake? Bad or good?
You’d better believe it.