“There she goes! There she goes!” my father yelled as he pointed up towards the roof. It was freezing out, we had no coats on but it didn’t matter. A grown man and three or four kids had just spilled out onto the lawn on a Christmas Eve, and stood squinting up into the sky. And I swear, to this very day, that I saw the hem of a huge red skirt slipping over the crest of the roof. It was, of course, Mrs. Santa Claus.
Years later, my mom took credit for inventing Mrs. Santa, for leaving the basket of new pajamas on the front step, ringing the doorbell then running at break-neck speed around the house, through the back door and coming up behind us all as we ran to the door. It was the only time of year that my father read the Bible to us, from Luke, the birth of Jesus. And it was the perfect opportunity for my mom to make a run for it. I doubt we ever heard the end of the story. But it was a great way to get your kids into their pajamas on Christmas Eve.
It never made sense that it was my mother. She was the student, the bookworm, snapping us all to our senses. In my mind, her brows are terminally furrowed and I am in trouble or close to it. My father was a 5 year old stuck in a suit with a briefcase. I think that’s why he liked to drink, because he could bust loose, be could become what he yearned to be at the moment; a clown, a cowboy, a monster. At night he became a huge wrestling machine, rolling and growling on the living room floor while we screamed and giggled, my mother sitting at the kitchen window, smoking another cigarette. When she looked out of the window, her brows went up, like she was asking a question, or like she was waiting to be rescued.
I took a poll and all of my siblings, including me kept Mrs. Santa alive. For me, it was long after I put Santa to rest. My last son, Jake, never knew Santa. I told him it was me that put those presents under the tree. It was work and a paycheck. But I decided Mrs. Santa had a practical use and no other kid, in my lifetime, ever had her ring their doorbell. She became family.
By then I knew Jesus and He was much better than Santa. No one would ever tell me that they made him up. I learned the end of Luke; that He was more than a baby in a Woolworth’s crèche, that he became a man just so he could die for us. And the greatest joy and wonder of all; He could actually live within someone like me. In the same mysterious splendor that He came to earth, through a young girl in a dirty barn, He came to me one night 29 years ago. The baby really came to rescue us. I wish my mom had known that all those years ago.
When my brother died, my dad drank to forget, and the child inside died too. We still pulled off Mrs. Santa, until we all went off to different places and it was more sad to remember the wonder and laughter, the days of child-like hope. We had our own kids and I did plenty of tearing over snow and ice to get from the basket of new jammies on the front porch to the back door in time. Eventually they learned the truth. But I loved standing in the Cape Cod cold with my kids, our breath billowing huge puffs of steam, yelling, “There she goes!” as they peered up into the black winter sky.
I wonder if the shepherds that saw the angels rip through the silent night, God’s glory spilling out onto the dark earth, if they forever stood watching after that, – looking for maybe a wing, a golden hem of a robe, just a sprinkle of light or a faint song through the stars. I wish my dad had known that the child-like wonder can be real, that Jesus wants us that way.
According to my daughter-in-laws, the legend of Mrs. Santa has made it to the next generation, but it’s more for fun, honoring a peculiar family tradition. Like me, they retired Santa, and gave Jesus center stage. And I think Jesus would be right in the middle of it all; gingerbread houses and hanging stockings and singing songs, even shouting, “There she goes!” and especially the love in a mom or dad that tucks a child in at night. It might remind Him of His mom, that cold night, the love in her eyes and the love that sent Him from heaven straight to us.
We were worth all that to Him – the cold barn, the cross, the empty tomb. It was all His idea. It’s the most magnificent Christmas gift, every single day of the year. Christ in us – the hope of glory, a hope that is eternal.
Luke 2:11-14 (NLT)
The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
May you know the wonder of His love and the glory of His salvation this Christmas and forever!