Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Year Santa Forgave Me

One year, when I was about seven, it dawned on me the afternoon of Christmas Eve...I wasn’t good enough. Not in a self-esteem-in-a-vacuum sort of way, but in a naughty-vs-nice sort of way. I’d been mean to my sister WAY too many times. I’d whined when my mom asked me to help her clean the kitchen. I’d taken cookies without asking. My room was a mess. But mostly I knew it was that mean part that made me not good enough. And I was seriously worried that Santa might not come.

What if I didn’t get any presents? --Or worse, what if I got coal? But what bothered me even more than the presents and the shame was my own meanness. I didn’t like it when my heart felt stingy and angry. I didn’t like thinking about how good I wasn’t.

I decided to change, right then and there. Santa was probably already soaring through the night sky over the Orient and probably wouldn’t be revising his list this late in the game, but it was still worth a try. We listened to the radar report; he’d reached the middle east. Not much time left. I tried to be extra nice to my sister. I let her play with my doll. I let her win at Yahtzee. I tried as hard as I could to do everything single little thing my mom asked me. I had already helped making candies and cookies, sending myself to batter-licking nirvana. I volunteered to wrap presents, even though I knew it was too late. Then I served my dad. I gave him one of those neck rubs he loves, then ran my fingers through his hair...and kept doing it for [what seemed like] hours. And I didn’t complain when it was time to go to bed.

I hoped it would work. I knew it was a last-ditch effort. But it was sincere.

That Christmas morning I was strangely not tempted to badger my parents to go out and see what was under the tree. I was still scared. What if my efforts weren’t enough to make up for a year of badness and meanness? Santa might not have brought me any presents at all. Fear and dread kept me from dashing out there to take a peek. I got dressed. I cleaned my room. I made my bed. I helped my mom stir orange juice for breakfast, and didn’t wince when she called it Juice-y.

Finally, I could stall no longer. Mom and Dad had us line up in the hallway and sing a Christmas carol, with me leading the way. I walked to the familiar chair where Santa always tucked my presents, and found it full-to-overflowing. Santa came after all. I could hardly believe my eyes...or my luck.

What I learned that Christmas has lasted a lifetime. Because that year I learned about mercy and grace. I knew that, despite my change of heart, no amount of effort on a cold Christmas eve could possibly right the wrongs of an entire year. And yet there were gifts. Unearned, undeserved gifts. Rewards for faith and a change of heart. Forgiveness.

It reminded me of this spread from What Think Ye of Christmas:

Some parents choose not to teach their children about the wonder of Santa Claus. (Let alone elves, reindeer, and a sleigh that circles the globe in a single night.) And I can understand why. But I would suggest that Santa is a symbol. A kind, bearded man who invites children to come and sit on his knee and tell him their dreams...”Suffer the children to come unto me”...and then showers them with clearly a metaphor. I think believing in the goodness of Santa gives way to our faith in an all-knowing, pure-loving Lord who invites even the weakest among us to Come Unto Him. We tell him our struggles, our sorrows, our hopes...he invites us to change our hearts...and then He showers us with blessings, grace, and forgiveness.

There could be no greater gift.


L.T. Elliot said...

You say it (and paint it) better than I ever could. All those things I worry in my heart--even as an adult--you've reflected so beautifully here. This grace, this forgiveness? I don't deserve most often but I'll never stop trying because I know it. I know He keeps His arms open for me even when I'm not my most lovable.

Merry Christmas, Jana. May you be loved and shown love as often as you've given it to others; to me.

With love,


Shari said...

That was beautiful, Jana. I could sooo relate to your feelings. Thanks for sharing that. I, too, see the symbolism in Santa and his giving-ness.

Have a wonderful holiday.

Kazzy said...

Yes, I have always felt that parallel with Santa and Christ. And even older children should appreciate the metaphor. Hope you and a great day. Xo

DeNae said...

What a delightful story, Jana! And good heavens, you're a talented lady. I love the idea of receiving gifts even when we are 11th hour repenters. Hope you're having a wonderful holiday, my friend. (Your books have been given as gifts and have been absolutely loved by the recipients!)

Heather of the EO said...

This is beautiful, lady.

I hope your Christmas was beautiful too.

Much love...

(my word verification word is "prize"--gotta love that.)

Happy Mom said...

That's my favorite watercolor from the book!!

I adore Santa! He's a type of Christ in so many ways!!

What a beautiful lesson for your seven year old self!

Dedee said...

It's taken me years, but I think I finally believe in Santa Claus. Thanks for sharing this! Love you!

Lara said...

Oh, I loved this. I've thought about the Santa question a lot this year, as I seem to have a surprising number of friends who don't do Santa at all. Which, is fine, but it did cause me to really search my soul as to why I do it and feel it's important.

And you have figured it out for me. I got to the part where Santa is a symbol of Jesus, because he gives. But I hadn't quite figured out that he still gives even when we may not be deserving--and he always does. What a beautiful illustration of the Atonement and of what Christ came here to do.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

Mrs4444 said...

Well-said. When my kids were small, I didn't want to push the Santa thing, because a good friend shared how traumatized she was when she learned that her parents had been "lying" to her about Santa (She didn't believe them about Jesus as a result, for a while.) That story scared me too much, so while Santa did come, he only brought a few, smaller gifts, and we spoke of him as a "tradition our family celebrates." I feel good about it. That said, Kendall was sick about learning we were Santa; she'll never forget it. Seems like you just can't win on the Santa account!

Heidi said...

I agree 110%. Santa helps children wrap their minds around the true charity of Christ. This year my 9 year old asked me if Santa and Christ were the same person. It gave us the opportunity to explain that they aren't as well as talk about what they have in common. No one I know has ever believed that Christ must not be real because Santa isn't. They get it. Line upon line .. .loved this post for this reason and many others. Hugs!

Shari said...

I gave you a Stylish Blog Award since you are stylin' and I like you. Head on over to my blog to get it!

Luisa Perkins said...

Oh, I love this post so much. I can't believe I didn't realize it was up until now, but I'm glad beyond glad that I caught it.

Sandy M. said...

Hi Jana! I hope you had a great Christmas, a fun New Year, and that you have a wonderful year ahead!
Thought for the day: (Or perhaps the year. Or every day this year :)
“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” - Oprah
(Did you see the Oz specials on Oprah? That's not why I used her quote though :)

Sandy M. said...

It won't shock you to know that we have often played 'The Movie Game', as a family (the object of which is to insert a movie quote into normal conversation and see who can pick up on it first, by naming the movie from which it came).

In that spirit: 'Ya'dead mon?'