Friend of Santa

What's the deal with dissing Santa? It's bad enough we can't have Nativity scenes, but now there's a major retailer putting Santa down.

I object.

I know, it's supposed to be humorous. But the defender in me always rises up when I see those ads about how the retailer can best Santa in the game of gift giving.

Just so you know: I'm a dyed in the wool, steeped in the DNA Catholic.

I love the sacramental infusion of the smells, the bells, the holiness of the ordinary, the ritual, the language,  the music, the art, the mysticism of Catholicism. And the gracious, non-deserved, no naughty and nice list of the Gift of Christmas.

And maybe, just maybe, that's why I love Santa Claus.

Long, long time ago, when I was a young mother of a two year old, I was standing in the back of the church, holding the Lectionary waiting to process up the aisle. Next to me was a woman, probably in her fifties, a kind of "church lady" with her sensible gray hair and plain grey skirt. It was Christmas morning and I was the lector at the 10:15 Mass, and she was a Eucharistic Minister.  I mentioned the fun of Christmas with my toddler daughter, the anticipation of Santa and the gifts.  She very plainly said, "oh we never bothered with all that with our kids. We emphasized the spiritual rather than the Santa aspect of Christmas."

She was of so sincere. And humorless. What a drag.

For just a moment I felt chastened. I had been corrected by my elder on the true nature of Christmas and what's important to teach children. But that didn't last long.

What's more Christian, more holy even, than a saint spreading the blessings of God on a world deeply in need of reminders of love?

We are physical, that is, incarnate, beings  not spirits just renting out space in a body--we need the sights sounds touch excitement, magic, yes magic, of Christmas and the  concrete expressions of love and undeserved gifts.

So when folks complain about the secularization of Christmas, I wish they'd leave Santa out of it. He's a holy man. A wise man. A magi.

And, man oh man, he's one of the best teachers of the holy that we've got.

Merry, Merry everyone.