Presence, Not Presents

Warning: This Article Is NOT Safe for Little Kids Waiting for Santa

When I was a little kid, about four years old, I remember waking up late on Christ-mas Eve to the sound of my father swear-ing. This wasn’t unusual, but it was late, and I was afraid he would chase off Santa. So, I padded down the hall to have a peek.

There was my dad, in the living room, put-ting together toys and arranging stuff. So, at four years old, my bubble was burst. Dad was Santa. Wow. I went back to bed and didn’t tell anyone what I saw because I was afraid that if they knew that I knew then they would take all my loot away.

I kept this up for years — not the peeking, but the pretending not to know the real scoop. Finally, my mom had “the talk” with me. “Kid, there is no Santa.” Even then I didn’t tell her that I already knew this.

In a way, though, I think it was a good thing. You see, I was awfully good at pour-ing through the Sears catalog and making long, long lists of all the stuff I wanted. But when I finally realized that my mom and dad and grandparents were Santa, I cut back a bit because, even at that age, I knew about tough financial times and not being able to afford everything I wanted.

I think it made it easier to understand just a little bit that this is why Santa would bring me socks and underwear and school sup-plies and not just piles of toys. And soon I stopped making those lists because I could see the look in my mom’s eyes.

Even to this day, I continually frustrate my mom when she asks what I want for Christ-mas by saying, “Nothing. I don’t have any-place to put it.”

I know it’s trite to say that all I want for Christmas is peace and love and all that. But I wonder what would happen if we all said that? And prayed that? And really meant it?

I wonder how that would affect the world? If we didn’t run ragged trying to impress others. If just visiting each other was enough. If just a phone call was enough. A card wishing others well.

We don’t really need commercials to remind us to do that. We don’t need those Thanks-giving newspapers crammed full of ads. We don’t need Christmas music on Labor Day. We know we should do these things every day. It’s just what friends do.

And it should remind us that God came into this world as a vulnerable human being just to be with us…to be like us, so that one day, we could be like him. God came among us because God wants to be our friend. Not for our presents, but for our presence!

The utter simplicity of that is awesome to me. This is not some theological delving into atonement or eschatology. It skirts around those ponderous theories of the Trinity and gets right to the point: God is our friend.

And we know that with friends, we don’t need to impress. Just a call now and then. Just a visit or a card. And during all this fuss of Christmas, let’s not forget to invite this one friend into our lives.

And so, my friends, Happy Advent and Merry Christmas! And share some time with our friend who loves us so much during this very special season. It seems appropriate, since the holiday and this friend share the same name!

— Fr. Steve


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