Sunday, December 26, 2010

Anticipating Christmas by Emily VanLaeys

Sifting through my mental memory box, I find two images collected during my gradual discovery that Santa Claus is merely a myth.

The first image involves finding the box in the attic that went with the Revlon doll I'd received on Christmas morning when I was five. The doll had not been in the box when I found her under the tree, and I realized she came from a store. The following Christmas, I said to my mother, "I'm not sure I believe in Santa Claus anymore."

"Don't say that, Emily!" she pleaded, holding me close on her lap. "Of course there's a Santa Claus. He's the spirit of Christmas!" After that, Santa Claus was no longer a jolly, magical man in a red suit trimmed in white. He was an unseen spirit, like Jesus and God.

The other image is a vivid, treasured memory of what it was like to really and truly believe in Santa Claus. My brother Steve and I were going to sleep together in the same bed on Christmas Eve, so that we could share the excitement of that special night. I suppose he was four and I was three. The air was thick with magic. "I think I hear sleigh bells on the roof," Steve whispered. We were not lying down, but kneeling at the bottom of the bed, leaning over the foot board, straining to see out the door into the dimly lit hallway. We knew he was coming.

I have waited many years to recapture the thrill of such a sure knowing about the miraculous. I was a 40-year-old mother when I listened to the story of a friend of mine who had been close to death in a hospital. As she lay in her bed, immersed in a pool of pain, Jesus came to her, just as real as you or I. "He was like pure love looking at me," she said. She left her body and He led her down a path toward a river where people beckoned from the far bank. The colors were more vibrant than those we see in our everyday lives. She told Jesus that she couldn't go any further with Him--she had five children to care for. So He brought her back, to her pain and gradual recovery.

Before that time, I had read stories in books and magazines, written by people who had met Jesus, or an angel, or experienced a miracle of healing. But reading stories written by strangers is not the same as hearing such a miraculous tale from the lips of a trusted friend--an ordinary mother, just like me. Tears welled up in my eyes. The Hallelujah Chorus crescendoed inside me. The air was thick with magic. My friend had met Jesus. He had come to her when she needed Him most. Now I knew that He would come to me, too.

I felt again like a small child on Christmas Eve. Back then, I knew that Santa was coming. Now I knew that Jesus was coming. Jesus, who did come as a baby on the first Christmas Eve, comes again to everyone who looks for Him. First, as a blessing in our hearts and souls. Then, as a friend, to light our way in the darkness when we are lost, or sick, or dying. When will I see Him? I don't know when it will happen, but I know that it will. Whenever I think about it, the air is thick with magic.

He is coming!

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