It couldn’t have been louder than a whisper – the sound of a ringing bell on that cold December night.
My head reeled back from the pillow. Staring at the window, I held my breath, trying to decide if the noise was real or just my imagination.
It was definitely real. It had to be. Of all nights, the bell was most certainly his – the man of the hour, this infamous St. Nick.
The mental check list began: Cookies had been baked and decorated. The note rewritten to be as legible as possible. An added touch of apples and carrots for the reindeer was sure to impress.
But everyone knows the rule: no sleep, no Santa. Right. Back to bed, stat.
Morning sun would shine her rays, soon enough, illuminating evidence that my St. Nick had been there. Each present, every knickknack stuffed in stocking, would be proof of his existence, and more importantly, a testament of his love for me and every other child who waited for this man – a man we had never met.
For years (and I admit, years past the “normal” Santa-believing age), I held steadfast in my trust that there was a Santa.
I was Virginia. I could look at the baby’s rattle, hear the noise, and know that even if I couldn’t see the beans inside, they were in there, making their noise that brought baby’s smile and squeal.
It’s an impressive faith, this childhood belief in Santa Claus.
I know it’s extraordinary because of my heartbreak when I realized that Santa wasn’t a real person. It hurt because I believed in him so strongly.
But I learned soon enough that all my trust couldn’t be placed in Santa, or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. Because fairy tales bring momentary happiness. Momentary.
By now, I’ve recovered from that loss of innocence, but there’s one part of my Santa days that I’ve never let go of. In fact, I hold onto it more tightly than ever before.
It’s my undefeatable faith in Christmas.
My kick-down-the-front-door, back-flip, break-dancing JOY in the birth of a Savior who would conquer all evil so that we would not parish, but live in everlasting love.
Whatever crap I encounter, or bone that breaks, or pain that jabs my heart, I know that it can’t overcome me, because a child named Emmanuel -meaning God is with us– was born.
I put every ounce of my trust in Him. Even on the days when it seems like the light is lost, I know that He has gone before me and that the light will come. That the light is already there, if I look close enough.
If my 8-year-old self could believe so strongly in a jolly old elf whom I had never seen, than I know I can believe in my Savior in a magnitude ten-fold what it was for Santa. If I utterly believed in Santa’s presents on Christmas morn’, I can whole-heartedly believe in His ever-loving, everlasting Presence.
We’re born with a capacity for faith, but sometimes we get jaded and we push faith to the back of our hearts.
Why? Because it’s hard to trust. Because it’s not fun to be heartbroken or disappointed. Because insecurity can prevent us from believing.
But I think we are born with the ability to believe because there is something worth believing in. For me, that’s God.
At Christmas, I celebrate the birth of God’s Son – a real man who walked this earth more than 2,000 years ago, who performed miracles, who healed, who spoke boldly of love and justice, who rose from the dead and gave us new life.
As I lay in bed this Christmas Eve, I will tune my ear to that gentle whisper. If I listen, I’ll hear it – the song that sings there is love, there is light, there is life, because He came. He overcame. He overcame it all for you and me and every person who has walked and will walk this earth.
And for that, I find great JOY in saying, “Merry Christmas. Peace has come.”