This summer, I’ve been pondering a quest

This summer, I’ve been pondering a question of deep theological significance: the possible existence of Santa Claus.
August may seem like an odd month for such matters. I probably wouldn’t be thinking about this at all if I did a better job of putting away our holiday children’s books. And I’d have far fewer holiday children’s books to put away, if not for my unfortunate habit of buying, on a whim, those “90% off” books that always get stacked in giant boxes every January. Abe, for his part, never tires of asking to be read Christmas books at bedtime. Neither do I, and so, all twelve months a year, the Grinch, the magic nutcracker, and the dreamers of sugarplums live on in our imaginations. It’s rather pleasant, really, when the heat reaches the triple digits, to contemplate page after snow-filled page of Christmas cheer.
But, before we go too far down the tangent of my erratic seasonal reading choices, allow me, beloved reader, to pose to you a question. It’s one you’ve been asked before, perhaps, though rarely in August. Maybe a little remove from the holiday season may give our question greater clarity: does Santa Claus exist?
In our desensitized age, it will probably not shock you to hear that a great many consider Santa Claus nothing more than a giant fable. These skeptics point out the more unlikely aspects of the situation: one man flies all around the world on one night (and yet only to households that partake in Christmas); he fits through chimneys and is never caught on radar; he knows exactly what everyone wants. Our Santa Claus cynics don’t stop there, though. Not only does the great bearded one not exist, they say, if he did exist he’d be pretty creepy. A man who knows who has been naughty or nice – and then would give or deny presents to young children, under cover of darkness, predicated on their moral behavior? What kind of sicko is this guy? We should be thankful, say the cynics, that the great Santa conspiracy is nothing more than a story.
But the existence of Santa Claus is up for debate. It always has been – and always will be, I expect. There are some who say there are good, rational explanations for all the seeming inconsistencies, involving everything from elf magic to quantum physics. And even if we didn’t have good, rational explanations, Santa remains true anyway, because he simply has to be, for life to make sense. These defenders of the faith are honest and earnest and good. In spite of this, they are not taken very seriously in the wider world, because they are seven years old.
Some adults, including many old enough to know better, have a different counter-argument to offer. No, Santa is not a white man with a beard sitting on a chair. Not really. There is no single individual who has the power to stop time, nor, sadly, any workshop that supplies all the world’s children free of charge. And yet – and yet, Santa is as real as you and me. Santa, none less than Santa, eats the cookies the children leave out, and reads the notes with great care. Santa brings the magic into homes across the world, and to the shelters and underpasses that are the closest thing to home for many. Santa, with the clear eyes of a child, asserts, in the face of the unrelenting servants of despair, that hope and goodness are completely real, and ever will be. Of course Santa Claus is real.
I know many others have said this before me – most memorably, in an 1897 newspaper column that many of us find ourselves falling in love with afresh every year. But it bears repeating. For if we are to pursue a real faith – and I, for one, would not pursue a faith of any other kind – we need to exercise the utmost caution in determining what is true. While the soul moans to see the great abstractions of the universe hammered into dogma, She leaps for joy whenever a child picks up a crayon.So ye who would measure the spans of the universe and the worthiness of life – be careful what you rule out.
Well, hope you don’t mind a rambling…

About bobjanisdillon

Unitarian Universalist minister, poet, husband, father, three-chord guitar wonder.
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