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Parents The True Spirit of Christmas
By Brad Paulson

Life is full of tough questions. For parents, one of the toughest and most dreaded questions is when their child asks them, "Is there really a Santa Claus?"

Waves of emotion flood over parents as they wrestle with the issue of how to answer this question. Most of us are never ready for the 'Santa Years' to be over. There is also the issue of hypocrisy, leading our children to believe in something and then telling them it doesn't exist. Many times, a child has been informed by a classmate or playmate about the non-existence of Santa, and they come to their parents for reassurance.

How do we deal honestly, compassionately and constructively with this question?

Years ago, I was Christmas shopping at a local mall. I had not yet become a Christian and was caught up in the hustle and bustle of commercialism gone awry. Frustrated by the number of holiday shoppers and the long lines, I decided to sit a while and take a break.

Shoppers shuffled up and down the escalators; some hurried, others relaxed, but all on a quest for that perfect gift for a loved one. Christmas music filled the mall. Decorations and colorful lights were everywhere.

The anxiety, that had prompted me to sit, began to fade and was replaced by a sense of peace and joy. Love was all around. Some people were stressed and uptight, but they were there because they loved somebody. It was a good feeling, and it occurred to me that I must be feeling the 'Christmas spirit.' I had felt it before, but never given it a name.

A few years later I discovered Christ. When the Holy Spirit invaded my heart it was a new experience for me, but there was also something familiar about it. Peace, love and joy were more present in my life than ever before. It felt good; kind of like the Christmas spirit. I began to wonder if they might be related. My Christmas experience in the past had been entirely secular. Was it possible for God to reveal Himself to me through all the commercialism and materialism?

Was Jesus dressed up in a red suit?

I had to ask myself, "Why wouldn't he?" I was like a child when it came to understanding God, so why wouldn't He reveal part of His nature through a non-threatening, jolly, old man with a giving heart? It dawned on me that Santa Claus might be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit-a picture of Jesus that my immature heart could understand. Self sacrifice, generosity and love for every human on earth were characteristics I could understand in old Saint Nick long before I was ready to take on the meaning of the cross.

When my oldest son decided he needed to know the truth, I was ready.

"Dad, is there really a Santa Claus?" he asked with deep apprehension.

"You bet," I said, "but He's much bigger than you think."

I continued by telling him that Santa was just a little picture of what God is like. Santa, the Christmas spirit, was a little piece of God's Holy Spirit. I explained that the fact he was questioning Santa's existence was a sign that he was ready to move on to the greater truth-the Holy Spirit. Then I assured him that he would get to spend the rest of his life getting to know God, and that the special feeling he felt at Christmas would grow through all the days of his life.

I suppose that some people will think it is sacrilegious, or even blasphemous, to associate God and Santa. They are entitled to their opinion, but I respectfully disagree. Although no one would expect the spirit of God to show up being pulled by eight tiny reindeer, no one expected him to ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey either.

God is always willing to reveal Himself to us. For adults, He is most easily recognizable in the faith and good deeds of other Christians or perhaps in the miracle of nature and His creation. For children, a generous old man who works diligently all year preparing the perfect gift for them is a wonderful picture of God's Spirit.

So, instead of dreading the day our children begin to question Santa, we, as parents, should embrace it.
Brad Paulson is a construction superintendent by day and a freelance writer by night. He resides in Spokane, Washington, with his lovely wife, Mardi, and two sons, Will and Rob. His writing has been published in several FaithWriters' anthology books, Cross Times Magazine, and a variety of Christian Websites. He is a regular contributor to FaithWriters.com and is dedicated to glorifying God through his writing. If you would like to write to Brad, you can do so through the Letters page of this magazine.