So, What About Santa Claus?

My husband and his sister JoBeth, circa 1950

((I’m so glad you asked.))

People are putting up Christmas trees early this year as we are all desperate for familiar anchors of joy and happiness in days gone by. We long for the comfort of traditions, the sights and sounds of the season, and what could be a more common sight than Santa Claus? Except this year there are none…. sigh.

Weaving together the wonder of Christmas involves one part birth of our Savior and one part life of a saint. The real-life character in question is a real-life saint–Nicholas, to be exact. It would be easy to blame our culture and their cashing in, literally, on the character of Santa Claus, but let’s not be so hasty. You might be surprised to learn the real story of St. Nick.

NICHOLAS WAS A REAL SWELL GUY

St. Nicholas of Myra, from a village in modern Turkey. The church calendar recognizes his generous life with the feast day of St. Nicholas on December 6. And no wonder; He was a generous man as well as a champion of the poor, employing people to make clothing for the needy and distributing food to the hungry. One of the best-known stories about him provides a toehold on the origin of Christmas stockings. (Sorry.)

Nicholas had a friend, a wealthy shipping merchant, who lost all of his ships and their cargo during a violent storm. The man was devastated because he had three daughters of marrying age and with this loss went any chance of contributing wealth to their dowries. Nicholas wanted to help. He had the resources, but he knew his friend would hesitate to take charity. Nicholas came up with a plan; after dark one night, he dropped a bag of gold coins through the open window of the eldest daughter’s room. Some of the coins fell into a stocking that had been hung out to dry. His generous act became the tradition we have hundreds of years later of hanging those stockings “by the chimney with care.”

If your family celebrates the birth of Jesus as the central focus of Christmas, bringing Santa into the mix can be sticky business. Some families deal with that in a stellar way. One family I know observes the church feast day of St. Nicholas as the day they open their family stockings. You may consider doing this, using it not only as an opportunity to tell your children about the real St. Nick but also to spread out the bounty of Christmas morning to more than a single day.

When I posed the Santa question on social media a couple of Christmases ago, my friend Marcie responded, “We do full-out Santa. Make lists, leave the fireplace doors open so he can get in the house, cookies and milk, carrots for the reindeer. The biggest and best present is left until Christmas Eve and it’s from Santa. Childhood is so fleeting, I’m going to eke out every bit of magic I can before my kids are too old to believe anymore.”

“Christmas,” she continued, “is absolutely the day we celebrate Jesus and his birthday. My kids have never questioned why Santa exists on Jesus’ birthday. It’s two completely separate things in their minds.”

The Day I Cleaned the Front of My Fridge & Found the Heart of Advent

The arrival of Advent marks the beginning of the church year, anchored  on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. In the year of our Lord 2020, the date is November 29th. Side note–New this year for 2020 FREE PRINTABLE cards for each Sunday of Advent. Just click HERE.

The word ‘advent’ is from the Latin word ‘veni’–adventus–coming. The cornerstone of the Advent season is the idea of making room for God to come.  It is a time of waiting, as Mary did, with the impossible promise that a Saviour would be born, the miracle of light coming to a dark world.

What does that have to do with refrigerators? Let me share.

Several Novembers ago we ordered new kitchen appliances. Everything started when the microwave died. This led to a conversation about the refrigerator which had been humming its way loudly to a definite motor-y end. We dug out the paperwork and discovered it was 17 years old.

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Here’s a photo of our kitchen on Thanksgiving 2000, one year after we got it, all brand spanking new. That’s my daughter Leah the chef basting the turkey. (And no, I will not talk about the psychedelic flooring.)

After a thorough appliance reconnoiter, husband and I decided to join the Black Friday crowds and head to Home Depot to shop the sales. Four hours later, we had ordered for the first time in our 35 plus years of being married, a matching fridge, dishwasher, microwave and range.  In stainless steel. We are so de rigueur.

Maybe my dear readers are already aware of what such a purchase entails, but I don’t think we considered exactly how arduous ‘out with the old, in with the new’ would be under such circumstances.   The ensuing chores involved five hours of cleaning of stove and frig–outsides only–and cleaning of the floors underneath. I was appalled at the debris and gunk on the sides of our range. I blame 16 years of coffee prep. And under the frig? I will also not talk about that.

I had been notified via my daughter in our Thanksgiving conversations a few nights’ previous that magnets do not stick to stainless steel. Oh. I did not know that.  Well, there go the grandkids’ photos and artwork. There go my magnets from Laguna Beach and Yosemite, my favorite of Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate factory, Scripture cards, quotes I liked.  A veritable bulletin board available 24/7, reminding me constantly of All the Things.

People, places, Bible verses, photographs. Football schedules, equivalent baking measures, an encyclopedia of input and information.  It would all have to go.

So, empty box in hand, I swept the surface clean and windexed it to its glorious, brand-new, former self.

My words are a paltry representation of the change that came over me after that clean sweep. Every time I walked into the kitchen I literally breathed a peaceful sigh. Husband and I remarked many times throughout the next day at how pleased we were with the empty space, that it seemed quieter in the kitchen because all the noise on the fridge was gone.

“Writing a Book is Easy” (said no one. ever.)

When I set out from home last week, Sunday to be exact, I’d been crowing to all who would listen, “I’m going away for a week to write the first draft of my book.” As if…..as if that can be done. But God is so good–we just don’t know what we don’t know. Whether it’s, “Hey, let’s paint the living room this weekend,” “Honey, let’s take that hike. It’s totally easy.” “Wow, I think I’ll go back to school/get a job now that my children are older,” and other idealistic statements.

Or maybe that’s just me.

stained glass, GrunewaldThis week away at the lovely Grunewald Guild in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, has been eye-opening, to say the least. (The bridge photo in the header was taken here at Grunewald last Fall).

Here are seven things I’ve learned I’m learning:

  1. Life and Jesus will get in the way (in a good way).
  2. You planned to write a rough draft of your book but you’re the rough draft
  3. Never write in the same room you’re sleeping in. A table along one wall does not a study make
  4. You will have to recalibrate your expectations several times using not GPS, but Jesus PS.
  5. Sometimes being productive means lots of prayers going up rather than print on the page.
  6. Trust the process. Give it time. God’s not in a hurry. The book idea was His anyway—all you have to do is give Him your pen.
  7. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not God.