Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Someone told me, just after I'd shared this story with them for the holidays, that there's another author who published almost exactly the same story before me. I'm not surprised, since I was inspired to write this from a popular picture of Santa kneeling beside the manger. I'm sure there are a lot of authors who have written something similar.

But I like my version, and I'm going to continue to share it. Merry Christmas.

“The Gift of Christmas”

by Cheri L. Chesley

                The story of Christmas has different meanings for everyone.  For some, the mere mention of the holiday conjures up hours at the mall waiting in lines or traveling from party to party or even of finding that perfect gift.  For others the word “Christmas” calls up visions of a jolly, bearded man in a red velvet suit.  And still others, well, for those Christmas holds a deeper meaning.  Without trying to disturb other concepts of this precious holiday, please allow room for one more version of the Christmas story.
                It may surprise you, if you think about it, the many different stories of how Santa Claus came to actually exist.  One theory is that the dear man is timeless—and ageless—and has been traveling ‘round the world one night a year for countless generations, ever since that first time he hefted a sack full of toys on his shoulder.  Another idea holds the term “Santa” is a title rather than a name and is handed down to the males of the Claus lineage.  What happens, I wonder, if all they have is girls for a couple of generations?  It’s been known to happen.  I’m not here to unravel the mystique of Santa Claus.  That is not my purpose.  This tale is a grander, yet simpler, one.
A new sense of wonder and excitement was in the air over the North Pole this particular year.  Everyone felt it—the elves, the reindeer, and most significantly, Santa and Mrs. Claus.  Santa, by all accounts a happy, cheery man, grew restless and even pensive as Christmas drew nearer.  The elves reported to their families that he was unusually quiet.  Even the reindeer noted his soft touch had become more firm.  Mrs. Claus, her name is Sara by the way, took all reports with a soft smile.  She knew Santa Claus anticipated more than gift giving this holiday season.
The star had begun to shimmer more brightly in the night sky.  Santa was one of the first—or perhaps the only—to notice, given as he was to star gazing.  A man simply doesn’t spend an entire night, even just once a year, in the air without some knowledge of the sky.  It wasn’t yet at its brightest, this star, but he kept watch over it just the same.
Still there was work to do.  For unlike some version of his story with visuals of lordly supervision of the elves, Santa Claus actually helps make the toys and gifts.  He is really more like an overgrown elf himself.  Though delicate elfish fingers are better for tying laces, painting eyelashes and some other minute details, Santa could stuff teddy bears and paint wooden trucks.  And of course there was the List.  Little Sam wanted a fire engine; Amy wanted a doll.  Or was it the other way around?  Mr. Claus would chuckle as he thought of the nice children, and a few of the naughty.  He understood children weren’t naughty by nature—those who seemed so were usually either unhappy or misguided.
It was snowing Christmas Eve as the elves prepared the sleigh and hitched up the reindeer.  Each package had been wrapped with care and lovingly placed in Santa’s talented red velvet sack.  The man himself was helping load the sleigh.  He had been dressed for hours, since the moment Mrs. Claus had finished the last stitch in his red coat.  She makes him a new one every year, in case you didn’t know.
Santa was eager to get started.  When the last gift was packed he kissed his wife and climbed into the sleigh.  He gave the elves a final wave of farewell and, with a quiet word to the reindeer, they were on their way.  He urged them higher and higher into the night sky, and though his tone was never sharp the reindeer felt his urgency and increased their speed to match it.
House after house they worked their magic.  The night wore on; the moon rose high and then began to sink.  Still Mr. Claus pressed on.  He was nearer now; his target fixed in his mind.  The goal was almost obtained.
The magic of being Santa Claus is precious.  Most valued is the gift of being able to touch the hearts of children.  To “see them when they’re sleeping” and to “know when they’re awake” and to “know if they’ve been bad or good” are special blessings.  So who better to know when the birth of a child takes place?  He needs no announcement or letter to know when another dear spirit has come to grace the Earth.  And then the most Precious one of all comes, no one needs to tell Santa.
So this night, with one last gift in his sack, Santa Claus turned his reindeer toward the brightest star in the sky, the star that burned brighter and more clearly than any other star in the Heavens.  It was not an easy journey but instead one of bitter wind and cold.  More than once the reindeer wanted to turn back but Mr. Claus urged them on.
It was not easy to land reindeer on the tiny roof of the little stable in Bethlehem but Santa Claus knew how to do it.  Flying reindeer by nature have a very light step so they hardly disturbed the occupants when they touched down.  With practiced ease he quickly took up his red velvet sack and got out of the sleigh.
Stables don’t usually have chimneys and I’m not going to try and convince you this one did.  Like most other stables this one was not designed for human occupation, despite its purpose that night.  (I am not here to reveal all of his secrets, so you won’t hear from me how he got off and then back on the roof.) 
Now that he had arrived at his destination, Santa felt a wonderful calm come over him.  The rush of delivering gifts and treats to children was over.  He had made it—he had arrived in time.
Once on the ground, Mr. Claus was struck by the humble stature of the stable.  As he stepped into the dim light he slid his cap off his head.  He was greeted by the warm, welcoming smile of Mary and the firm, gentle handshake of Joseph.  They said nothing, but seemed to be expecting him.
As he approached the manger and the glorious child within Santa fell to his knees.  He remained there for a time—cap clutched in his hands, head bowed—before the Christ child, until it was time for him to leave.
With something of an apologetic smile, Santa reached into his sack and placed the gift he had lovingly crafted into the hands of Mary.  She clutched his hand in appreciation and smiled at him again.  What the gift was I cannot say—when you consider it the nature of the gift doesn’t matter.  With one last look at the baby Jesus, Santa Claus left the humble manger and returned to the sleigh.  They took off into the night, Santa pointed the reindeer north, and they all returned home for a well deserved rest.

So if you have ever wondered how or why Santa Claus delivers gifts in one solitary night, or what his rush seems to be, please know and recognize that even Father Christmas understands the real reason behind the season. 

The End

Merry Christmas

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