Saturday, December 25, 2010

Advent Fulfillment

Santa Claus was always a big part of our Christmas celebrations. My faith in him was secured the year he came to my Grandma and Grandpa Russell's house on Christmas Eve to give each of us granddaughters an early gift. My three older cousins suspected that this man in the red suit was a friend of theirs from Penn Avenue Baptist, but at five, I was enamored. The best part was when Santa leaned in close to whisper in my ear. When he told me that Jesus was the reason for celebrating Christmas, I was ecstatic. Santa Claus is a Christian! That sealed the deal. I was hooked.

I have always felt that my encounter with the "real" Santa Claus that day was significant spiritually. I hear a lot of talk in Christian circles about how harmful it is to "lie" to children about Santa...or how including him in our Christmas celebrations is pagan and detracts from the true meaning of the holiday. But somehow, I never felt lied to. And when I finally put aside my affections for the man in the red suit, an even stronger faith in Jesus remained.

My mom and I were talking about this on Christmas Eve--in the kitchen, where we have so many of our heart-to-hearts--and she said that she had been thinking recently about how much the anticipation of Santa Claus parallels our waiting for Jesus. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that was just really beautiful.

And it's true--those nights when I would make myself sick thinking about Christmas morning, those Christmas Eves crammed in a double bed with my three cousins when none of us could sleep for the excitement, they really were just a foretaste of what's to come.

It's been a long time since I slept cross-ways in a bed with my cousins on Christmas Eve, but Taylor and I have carried on the tradition. Every year, she camps out in my bedroom and we read Jolly Old Santa Claus, just like our mom and her sister did when they were little girls, and just like my cousins and I used to. It's a fanciful tour of Santa's workshop that makes you feel just a little homesick for days when Santa was real and you could count on his coming. The illustrations are stunning. This year, Taylor has been going through the Advent readings, too--so we read them together after the Santa book. The parallels were incredible:

For tonight is the long last it is is the night before Christmas! You must be very quite now and hop into bed quickly, for Santa Claus is ready to leave. The stars are twinkling in the blue sky above...and all the world is hushed and still, waiting for this magical night. For tonight...yes, tonight is the night he comes! And such excitement there will be when he comes!Jolly Old Santa Claus, by Maryjane H. Tonn

Say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come...He will come to save you."
Isaiah 35:4
"Shout and be glad, Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you," declares the LORD.
Zechariah 2:10

The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!"
He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Revelation 22:17, 20

Maybe it sounds sacrilegious to write about Jesus and Santa in the same post. But I really believe that Santa was a vessel God used to teach me about expectant waiting. He pointed me to the God who has come and who will come again for us. May we always cultivate longing for Him.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

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