Late one Christmas Eve I sank back into my easy chair, tired but content. The kids were in bed, the gifts were wrapped, the milk and cookies waited by the fireplace for Santa. As I admired the tree with its decorations, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing. It wasn’t long before the tiny twinkling tree lights lulled me to sleep.
I don’t know how long I slept, but all of a sudden I knew that I wasn’t alone. You can imagine my surprise when I opened my eyes and saw Santa Claus himself standing next to my Christmas tree. He was dressed all in fur from head to foot, but he was not the “jolly old elf” of Christmas legend. The man who stood before me looked sad and disappointed. And there were tears in his eyes.
“Santa, what’s wrong?” I asked. “Why are you crying?”
“It’s the children,” Santa replied sadly.
“But the children love you,” I said.
“Oh, I know they love me and the gifts I bring them,” Santa said. “But children today seem to have somehow missed out on the true spirit of Christmas. It’s not their fault. It’s just that the adults have forgotten to teach the children. Many of the adults have not even been taught themselves.”
“Teach the children what?” I asked.
Santa’s kind old face became soft, more gentle. His eyes began to shine with something more than tears. He spoke softly. “Teach the children the true meaning of Christmas. Teach them that there’s much more to Christmas than the part we can see, hear, and touch. Teach them the symbolism behind the customs and traditions of Christmas we observe. Teach them what they truly represent.”
Santa reached into his bag, pulled out a tiny Christmas tree, and set it on my mantle. “Teach them about the Christmas tree. Green is the second color of Christmas. The stately evergreen with its unchanging color represents the hope of eternal life in Jesus. Its top points heavenward as a reminder that man’s thoughts should turn heavenward as well.”
Santa reached into his bag again, pulled out a shiny star, and placed it at the top of the small tree. “The star was the heavenly sign of promise. God promised a Savior for the world, and the star was the sign of the fulfillment of that promise, when Jesus Christ was born. Teach the children that God always fulfills His promises and that wise men still seek Him.”
“Red,” said Santa, “is the first color of Christmas.” He pulled forth a red ornament for the tiny tree. “Red is deep, intense, vivid. It is the symbol of God’s greatest gift. Teach the children that Christ gave His life and shed His blood for them so that they could have eternal life. When they see the color red, it should remind them of that most wonderful gift of life.”
Santa found a bell in his pack and placed it on the tree. “Just as lost sheep are guided to safety by the sound of the bell, it continues to ring today for all to be guided to the fold. Teach the children to follow the true Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep.”
Santa placed a candle on the mantle and lit it. The soft glow from its tiny flame brightened the room. “The glow of the candle represents how man can show his thanks for the gift God gave of His Son that Christmas Eve long ago. Teach the children to follow in Christ’s footsteps, to go about doing good.
“This is what is symbolized when the lights twinkle on the tree like hundreds of bright, shining candles. Each of them represents one of God’s precious children.”
Again, Santa reached into his bag and this time he brought forth a tiny red-and-white-striped candy cane. As he hung it on the tree, he spoke softly. “The candy cane is a stick of hard, white candy. The candy is in the shape of the letter ‘J’ to represent the name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior. It also represents the crook of the Good Shepherd, which He uses to reach down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen who, like sheep, have gone astray."
Santa brought out a beautiful wreath made of fresh, fragrant greenery and tied with a bright red bow. “The bow reminds us of the bond of perfection, which is love. The wreath embodies all the good things about Christmas for those with eyes to see and hearts to understand. It contains the colors of red and green and the heaven-turned needles of the evergreen. The bow tells the story of goodwill towards all, and its color reminds us again of Christ’s sacrifice. Even its shape is symbolic, representing eternity and the eternal nature of Christ’s love. It is a circle without beginning and without end. These are the things you must teach the children.”
“But where does that leave you, Santa?” I asked.
A smile broke over Santa’s face. “Why, bless you, my dear,” he laughed. “I’m only a symbol myself. I represent the spirit of family fun and the joy of giving and receiving. If the children are taught these other things, there is no danger that I’ll become more important than I should.”
I must have fallen asleep again, and when I awoke I thought, I’m beginning to understand at last. Was it all a dream? I don’t know. But I remembered Santa’s parting words: “If you don’t teach the children these things, then who will?”
- Author unknown