“Sometimes seeing is believing. And sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.” –The Conductor on The Polar Express
When I was in the fifth grade, Traci Knotts asked me if I believe in Santa Claus.
I knew it was some kind of test, because everyone knew my family didn’t celebrate Christmas. And my mamma didn’t raise no fool. I knew it wasn’t right to go around dashing the dreams of others.
But my mamma also taught me not to lie.
At first, I just ignored the question that was whispered across the hall as we stood in line for the restroom. But that Traci, she was a persistent girl. I was frustrated with her determination to make me ruin her delusion. Besides, we were in the fifth grade. Didn’t she know better by now? Finally, in response to one of her queries, I just tossed her a wordless headshake. It was all she needed.
“Miss Bode,” she addressed our teacher—my most-favorite-person-in-the-whole-world. “Do you believe in Santa Claus?”
Miss Bode lifted her head from whatever it was she was doing and looked straight at me.
“I sure do,” she said.
I tensed up, looked straight ahead, avoided her piercing gaze. I could tell by her tone that she thought this was all my doing…that I was going around dismissing people’s ideas about Santa just for fun.
Everyone knew my family didn’t celebrate Christmas.
“I sure do believe in Santa,” she went on. “I believe in the magic he brings to Christmas and the spirit of giving he stands for. Santa Claus is very, very real.”
Even then—even though I didn’t believe in that jolly old round-bellied man with the white beard—even then I knew she was right. Sometimes the realness of a thing is hard to touch.
The season of Advent always seems laden with mystery and unspeakables. There are things in the Christ-child story that are hard to wrap my mind around…impossible to explain. And yet…meditating on these parts of the story awaken some sleeping part of me—maybe that part that might have believed in Santa Claus if given the chance.
In her lovely book Amazing Grace, Kathleen Norris quotes the poet Scott Cairns as saying, “My only rule: If I understand something, it’s no mystery.”
My pastor has been doing a sermon series on the Songs of Advent. Sunday, we read the Magnificat—also known as the song of Mary. It’s one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible. As we contemplated the Annunciation and the Incarnation, I felt the power of the mystery of it all touch my spirit and pull at my heart.
Can I accept all these things as truth? Can I allow that God is capable and willing to do these things? I am reminded of a conversation I had with my son a couple years ago, in which he told me he was okay with not having all the answers. Then I have to use my imagination to wonder about things, he said. And then he said how exciting that is because, “…God can do anything.”
I wonder if we’ve lost a sense of mystery? I wonder if believing in Santa might help create in a person a longing for the mysteries—a yearning for the sacred.
And how else can we foster that longing? There is no end to the possibilities. Could it be when we ponder these things, when we ask—as Mary did—How can this be? This takes us deep into the Mystery and opens us up for all the gifts we find there.
Kathleen Norris says, “…I suspect that Mary’s “yes” to her new identity, to the immense and wondrous possibilities of her new and holy name , may provide an excellent means of conveying to girls that there is something in them that no man can touch; that belongs only to them, and to God.”
Maybe the wrestling with the mysteries is like Jacob wrestling with God. We cannot let go until He blesses us. And maybe that it’s in this wrestling that He touches us in the most intimate of ways. We may be wounded, but we will be blessed.
It’s all over my head. So mysterious. But I think I’ll set out some milk and cookies for Santa this year.
Laura Boggess lives in a little valley in West Virginia with her husband, Jeff, and their two sons, Teddy and Jeffrey. She has an M.A. in clinical psychology and works in a medical rehabilitation hospital. Laura is a content editor at TheHighCalling.org and blogs at lauraboggess.com, where she shares stories about faith, family, and chasing the blue flower. Watch for her newest book, Chasing the Blue Flower: Playdates with God, in the spring of 2014.
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