Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

A child with no magic is a very sad thing. There is a little girl who sometimes haunts the office when her sister takes violin lessons with Gert. The little girl is blonde and talkative. She is six years old, matter of fact and unafraid to tell you The Way Things Are. She is little in the sense that she is small of build but 'little girl' seems an odd term because she Knows Things. She does not like to be called 'honey' because it makes her feel like a baby. She told me so. She was here on Tuesday and I was out of my cube so she caught me and, inquisitive one that she is, asked what I was doing.

“Getting the program ready for the concert on Sunday.”

She wanted to know what concert and who was performing and what they were performing and why. I told her that Mr. Kumi would be playing violin. I also told her she should come because it would be very good and there would be hot chocolate and cookies. She asked if me or any of my friends would be in it. I told her that I would be reading “Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus.”

“Santa Claus is dead you know. And he didn't have any reindeer.”

I stared at her a moment a little dumbfounded.
“St. Nicholas? He came to my house on Saturday.” I say.

She stares at me a moment.

My housmate Krisztina is Hungarian and December 6th is St. Nicholas day in Hungarian culture. The children clean their shoes and put them outside of their doors and Santa comes to fill them with treats. On Saturday I put out my ruby red slippers, Krisztina and Julie their boots and Annaka her high heels. It was snowing in the morning and our shoes held oranges tied with ribbon, postcards from Hungary and chocolate. Krisztina's were filled with traditional American Christmas candies. A wedding in our house that afternoon made for more festivity and it was a lovely St. Nicholas day.

I tell the little girl about leaving our shoes out.

“Probably it was your Mom and Dad.” she explains to me.

“They don't live here.” I say.

“Then probably your friends did it.”

“ I don't know...” I say. “Here, I want to read you what I'm reading at the concert.” I feel suddenly that it is important for me to read the article to her. I want her to see the magic. I want her to understand.

We go to my office (euphemism for cubicle) and I get my printed copy of the famous letter to the editor from the December 1897 New York Sun. I begin to read it to her. She stops me at the first paragraph and asks if I will wear a wig. No I won't. At this point her Mom comes back and it is time for them to leave. I fold up the article and tell her to read it later.

I hope to myself that she will and feel very grateful for the childhood that I had and for my Mom who cultivated in my brothers and I a sense of wonder. You meet grownups all the time who haven't magic and that is sad enough, but to meet a child with no magic is tragic indeed. I hope she'll find it.

~ ~ ~

The same day I tried to read little girl about Santa Claus my new friend MJ came over to watch Charlie Brown Christmas with me. MJ is a writer and she loves stories. I met her at a bonfire where a group of people from the college here gathered to read old stories aloud.

MJ told me that when she was little she wasn't allowed to read the Narnia books or any fantasy. Her parents were afraid of her becoming obsessed with fantasy. One of her friends created her own worlds and people made fun of her. They didn't want her to become like that. She was made to feel that there was something wrong with imagination.

What's beautiful about MJ's story is that she found it on her own. She loves story now and she's able to love it without resenting her parents. She recently convinced them to let her read The Hobbit to her little sisters and so now she gets to share her love with them. I think that is wonderful and I was glad she told me.

~ ~ ~

The wedding on Saturday was truly beautiful. It was a small simple wedding. The ceremony was in the great room at our house. There were candles lit around the windows and out the window you could see snow falling gently on the lake, the ground covered in pretty white. Two swans swam by right on cue during the vows.

What was really beautiful though was witnessing the union of two individuals who are truly committed to Christ. Christi and Barry's vows struck me as so bold. “I promise to cherish you at all times, in all places, in all ways through the strength and faith of Christ Jesus our Lord.” They were beautiful in their boldness.

The girls and I have been talking lately about how bold David's prayers are in the Psalms. So often I pray within my concept of what I think God can do, or what I think is possible. I pray weakly. But David prays in boldness which I think may be a form of humility because he knows enough about God's character that he recognizes that God can say no. And he is walking closely with God so that his desires are being transformed by God and he can ask in confidence.

The wedding vows on Saturday were beautiful because of their impossibility by human standards. There will be moments when the two don't feel like cherishing one another. But the vow must be strong so that they can return to it. There wouldn't be the same beauty in saying “I will try my best to love you when I can.” Because the vow is strong they can return to it when there is failure. And they know that they can't do it except through living in the strength of God and His amazing grace.

Some other truths about marriage really sunk in with me during the service. How marriage is a call and a ministry. Two people becoming one to serve Christ together and bring Him glory. Realizing what it is supposed to be should change the way I look at things. I tend to look at marriage so selfishly, patting myself on the back that I've even gotten to the point where I can say “yes I think I'd like to get married.” I was reminded once again that it isn't about me. And that changes so much. What we think of as the core of marriage, companionship, physcial intimacy, etc., is actually as the bride said to me, a bonus. God's loving bonus to His children. Marriage itself is to glorify Him.

~ ~ ~

I had been realizing lately that I would like to get married one day and these things simply help me see what that really means. I think that I should like to marry one day and to have children. I want my children to have big minds.

As I thought that yesterday I thought of how people so often call Christians narrow minded. I think that sometimes this is because it's true in some cases and sometimes it is because as Christians we are to have narrow focus. I do pray that my children will have narrow focus. That their focus will be on Christ and God alone. Narrow mind is not the same as narrow focus though.

I want my children to have big minds because we do not serve a small God. Not even a big imagination can comprehend how deep and wide is the Father's Love for us so a narrow mind would seriously limit one's relationship with an incomprehensible God. I believe that it is in art, poetry, music, theatre that we can express the indescribable.

“Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

~ ~ ~

Yesterday little girl came to my office and played with my kaleidescope and told me she thinks maybe the world will explode and we'll all float in space so maybe I was too harsh on her. I think there's hope.

Happy Christmas and may it be filled with wonder and love and relationship with our great God and the people He has placed in our lives.