(Note – Parental Disclaimer: the following Midweek Message contains material that may be troubling to some children, particularly if they still believe in Santa Claus. Or the Tooth Fairy.)
Dec. 14, 2017
Dear Hyde Park Family,
I can’t tell you the exact moment when both my daughters realized there is no Santa Claus. But I can tell you when Madelyn realized there was no Tooth Fairy.
When she was five, she lost one of her teeth at school and didn’t tell me or her mother. Instead, our clever girl tucked it under her pillow and wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy asking some personal questions (“Dear Tooth Fairy: How do you know when I’ve lost a tooth? What do you do with all of them, anyway? And what’s your favorite food?”)
Naturally, she woke up the next morning and found the tooth still packed in its plastic bag and her questions unanswered. Perhaps the Tooth Fairy was busy last night, she thought. So, once more without telling us, she tried it again the next night. (You’d have thought we would have noticed she was missing a tooth, but that’s another story.)
Suffice it to say, the whole experiment convinced her that maybe there’s something sketchy about the whole Tooth Fairy story. And if that’s true of the Tooth Fairy, she thought, then what about the Easter Bunny? And if there’s no Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny, then what about….what about….
I do think it dawned on older sister Grace shortly afterwards. At one point she said to me and her mother, “Well, Maddy and I are not sure if Santa is real. But we still really like the idea of Santa.” I remember thinking, Well, I’ll give them credit: They’re too smart to believe in Santa, but not dumb enough to pass on getting the presents.
I miss those early years of their childhood. It’s not that I miss the days that they believed in Santa. I really miss sharing experiences when they were filled with child-like wonder and awe, when their imaginations were unbridled by skepticism and their hearts unencumbered by worry.
I guess what I’m really saying is, I think we all miss having that capacity to wonder as well. Nowadays, we are so caught up in holiday duties and December deadlines that we forget that Advent is less about what we can see and touch, and more about promise and expectation. It’s about discovering a surprising gift, in places where we least expect to find it. And it’s about realizing qualities in others that we might otherwise overlook. Archbishop Oscar Romero captures it well:
Advent should admonish us to discover in each brother or sister that we greet, in each friend whose hand we shake, in each beggar who asks for bread, in each worker who wants to use the right to join a union, in each peasant who looks for work in the coffee groves, the face of Christ. Then it would not be possible to rob them, to cheat them, to deny them their rights. They are Christ, and whatever is done to them Christ will take as done to himself. This is what Advent is: Christ living among us. (From The Violence of Love)
Yes, there is more to Advent than meets the eye. It is not found in a jolly old man from the North Pole, but in the arrival of Christ amid those who are hurting and hopeless. It is expressed in the magnificent song of Mary, the subject of worship this Sunday, who rejoiced that God “has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.” (Luke 1:51-52)
You have likely lost your belief in Santa. But don’t lose your capacity for a Christmas surprise. Try finding Jesus in unexpected places: in the face of the hungry or impoverished, in the soul of someone who is grieving a loss, in the heart of someone who needs to see the light of hope in their lives, or even in the eyes of an adversary whose opinion is different from your own.
For when you discover Christ in this way, in the people and conditions where you least expect to find him, you will be filled with wonder, all over again.
Grace and peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega, Senior Pastor