My children can tell the difference. They know an impostor when they see one. When they see a man dressed in a giant, red suit with white trim, they whisper in my direction, “He’s not real.” ”That’s not the real Santa.” ”You know, Daddy. That’s just a man dressed up like Santa Claus.” It fascinates me. How do they know? What is it that gives the fake Santa Claus away? Is it the too-white to be white beard? Is it the dark eyebrows? Is it the gold-polished, plastic belt sewn into the fabric? I think children are smart. They believe in Santa Claus almost instantaneously. They grasp the idea that a person has the capability to go around the world delivering gifts. They believe that the impossible is possible. And it is not possible for someone who can do something so great to be sitting down on a chair in the middle of a shopping mall. A person with that much generosity does not hang out in front of the Orange Julius . The real Santa Claus does not give and tell.
Santa is a great example to the world on charitable giving. Obviously, his life is based on the great saint, St. Nicholas, who is famous for sharing gifts anonymously. The story has taken on a life of its own. He has turned into an immortal, elven slave-driver who lives in the frozen tundra.
But my children are right. Santa Claus does not wear loud clothing, like a red suit, so he can be seen from space. He does not go around bellowing, “Ho, Ho, Ho!” so that everyone knows that he is a big spender. A real Santa Claus works under the cover of night. He zips from house to house without being detected. He is a holiday ninja. In fact, the phrase, ‘secret Santa,’ is redundant. Santa is secretive. He hides. His work is not for his own glory. He gives for the sheer purpose that others may receive.
What’s that you say? You do not believe in Santa Claus? It is not a matter of believing that Santa Claus is real or not. The big question is whether you can be the jolly, old elf yourself. Can you be Santa? Can I be Santa? Jesus wants his followers to work at generosity. Jesus calls us to go around and give without anyone knowing. I guess you can say that each Christian is called to be Santa Claus, without the costume and only the heart.