For some kids this upcoming Christmas will be the first that they awaken to find that the tree is surrounded by presents supplied by dear Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt or Uncle...but not Santa. For those little children, the wonder of a fat man with a white beard and red suit shimming down the chimney (or sneaking in the back door for those without a fireplace) will be replaced with the reality that there is no mystical deliverer of gifts. Somehow, someway, the gifts appear there by another source. The gifts are purchased with real money, not made by elf hands. The wrapping paper is creased and tapped with the usual frustration that comes from flimsy manufacturing and dull scissors. The magical sparkle that once blanketed the holiday is gone. In its place is the reality of human effort.
For some kids, they see that the reality is actually work.
I remember when I found out that Santa was just a myth. My mind immediately began to replay Christmas' gone by. I rattled off in my mind all of the big gifts, stockings stuffed to the brim, perfectly picked outfits and my very favorite as a young girl - the American Girl dolls set up under the tree with their historically inspired desks and accessories. I asked my parents, "you did all of that?" Of course the answer was yes. They had taken the time to find just the right gifts, wrap them just so, hide them diligently, and work throughout the Christmas Eve night to make the coming morning a magical experience.
Beyond the holiday season, I began to see that the long days my Dad spent at work maintaining and growing his own business were all in an effort to make a life for me that could rival the gifts of Santa Clause. My Dad has always worked long hours. When I was young it was not uncommon for him to leave by eight in the morning and not return until eight at night. He always went out for the morning with a dollar amount in mind that he would make before he returned home. His business working on cars gave (and continues to give) him the opportunity to work harder to make more. If he hadn't reached his goal by five o'clock he went to another car dealership and tried to find another car to fix. If he needed to work on Saturday to hit his week's income goal or to meet the needs of a customer than Saturday was another work day. The only day he took off was Sunday and even that rule has been broken a time or two.
My Dad has given all of himself to work so that my Mom and I can live in comfort. He has generously given to us that which he has worked so hard for. He hasn't been stingy and he hasn't held back. He doesn't complain that we spend too much or don't contribute enough. He simply keeps doing the work that is in front of him.
Upon hearing that my Christmas gifts weren't supplied by the magical Santa, I gained a new respect for the very real parents I knew so well. They aren't magical, they are something better than magic. They are real and tangible. They know me and still love me. They give of themselves to me all year long, working hours that exhaust me to think about and sacrificing their time for my benefit. This realization, this love, is better than Santa.
The trouble with our world today is that it values Santa more than true, unconditional, sacrificial love. Instead of seeing the value of working hard and the dedication to family and faith that can be shown in the process, our society values the lottery and a government program. But they are missing a beautiful reality: work can be a act of love.
If Santa were real then Moms and Dads would lose a critical opportunity to show their unconditional love for their children. They don't need a huge bank account to make a magical morning. They just need love and a desire to make a special day for their kids.
Santa can't rival the passion of a Mom and Dad. He can't wrap gifts with the same patience or set them under the tree with the same intentional placement. Only the love of a real flesh and bone Mom and Dad or God-given loved one can do that job. Their love that is displayed with such brilliance on Christmas morning doesn't end there. It gets to be shown all year long.
Thank God there is no Santa Clause. If there were I might not know how very much my parents love me.