"At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe. "
~The Polar Express
Do you believe in Santa? Do your kids?
My kids always have.
I wonder, though, if Doodle is starting to have her doubts.
The truth is, I kind of want her to start doubting. I am bursting at the seams to tell her the truth.
The truth is that St Nicholas was a real man.
He was wonderful and caring and loved children.
He hated to see them suffer.
His real name was Nicholas of Myra (although he was know by many other names as well), a Greek Bishop around 1082.
He was an early Christian Saint.
He was the only child of very wealthy parents.
He was very religious from a young age.
His parents died when he was still a child.
This left him to the care of his uncle.
"Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).
Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need."
That's the truth.
He did not continue to live for nearly 1,000 more years in the North Pole surrounded by little elves and magical flying reindeer.
But I truly believe that the spirit of St Nicholas lives on, even today, nearly 1,000 years later.
He is not one fat man in a red suit.
He is many, many men and women who are alive and breathing and walking among us and want to help alleviate suffering and teach about Christ and follow His example of giving.
And I am one of them.
Toys For Tots.
OK, that's like 3 words, but whatever.
If that is not the spirit of St Nicholas, I don't know what is.
What about Angel Trees? Secret Santa's? Food Banks? Local Bishops who take care of those in their congregations in need? Neighbor helping neighbor?
Need I go on?
Ask the single mother of a young family who is hopeless who opens the door to find a box of food and simple toys for her children she could not possibly have afforded?
Ask those children if Santa is real.
These types of miracles happen thousands of times the world over this time of year.
That happened to me many times growing up with a single mother.
I was the 5th of 6 children. My older siblings had found out the truth about Santa long before I ever did. I guess because of that, I knew the truth long before my time.
I don't remember the moment or the year when I found out the truth.
I do remember that long after I found out that the fat man in a red suit was a fairy tale, those gifts kept right on appearing on our doorstep.
There were so many loving neighbors and friends who had the true spirit of Christmas in their hearts.
Simply put, they had the spirit of Christ.
I can't wait to tell Doodle that the spirit of St Nicholas, which is really the spirit of Christ, is alive and well and that she, too, can have it.
She can be a part of something much bigger than herself and all the gifts she wants to get.
She can find those in need and give of herself.
Some of my best memories of Christmas is the service I have given.
The gifts given to angel trees when I have not even been there to see the gifts opened.
What have we done to show others the spirit of Christ? Have we given of ourselves?
Only when we find out that the spirit of Santa is thriving and we find out how to be a part of that can we truly hear the bells ringing.
The music seems sweeter, the spirit of Christ burns brighter and deeper and Christmas becomes magical again.
I guess I'm a little bit back wards.
I believe in Santa more now that I ever did as a child.
Merry Christmas to all, I love every one of you!