Note: If you’ll stick around until the end, there are a couple of gifts for you.
At the end of the 19th century, a little girl wrote to a newspaper seeking the truth about Santa Claus. The 1897 editorial response by Mr. Francis Pharcellus Church of the New York Sun is the origin of the ever popular and oft repeated phrase ‘Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.’ For this post to have its fullest impact I would highly recommend reading the background on the story and then reading the entire editorial response of Mr. Church at the following website:
As I read this historical column (BTW – history’s most reprinted editorial), I could not help but be struck by the fact that Mr. Church was constantly bestowing the qualities and characteristics of God upon Santa even to the point of giving him an eternal existence. He had the audacity not only to take heavenly glory away from God and give it to Saint Nick (to learn more about the true life St. Nicholas, this is a very comprehensive website: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/home/) but then offered his thanks to God for making it so. And therein lies one of the biggest dangers in the Christmas ‘pretend’ hoax so many parents ‘play’ upon their young children.
In the eyes of children and adults alike, each year a little more glory is taken away from the One all glory and honor is due and instead is given away to enlarge the ever-growing mythical figure of Santa Claus. Jesus decreases and Santa increases. The fact that parents and adults passionately embrace and perpetuate this myth ironically reveals that we as parents are just as susceptible to succumbing to the peer pressure to tell a fib as our children may one day become because of our example.
Think about it just a moment … which is a more significant childhood memory in your heart? The magic of Santa Claus you experienced as a child –or- the moment you were told Santa Claus was not real? For many, the moment of truth causes the bubble of wonder to burst or fade away.
Why not give our children a hope and a wonder that will challenge, encourage and comfort them throughout their entire lives? I can’t help but wonder where we might be today with all of our Christmas traditions, not to mention journalistic standards, if a New York newspaper reporter had chosen to tell the truth to little Virginia O’Hanlon.
I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.
Maybe Mr. Church’s response could have read something like this …
It saddens me that I, and not your Papa, must inform you that your little friends are indeed telling you the truth. They have not been deceived or confused by this popular belief nor have they placed their hope in the mythical figure of Santa Claus. They have been blessed with a faith that helps them to see and know the truth and a belief that allows them to trust in the unseen. They know and believe that many things exist which are incomprehensible to their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be of men or children, are little. In this great universe created by God, man is a mere insect intellectually, as compared with the boundless omniscience of God, through whom absolute truth and knowledge can only begin to be grasped.
No, VIRGINIA, Santa Claus has become a myth perpetuated by parents throughout the world out of some misguided, yet heartfelt, desire to create in young hearts a false sense of hope and wonder based on a series of perennial falsehoods. I might add falsehoods, that one day they will either choose or be forced to rectify with their children. But God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit exist as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Holy Trinity! It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no hope, no love to make this a joy and peace filled existence. We would have no enjoyment, except by sense and sight. Absent the eternal light that Jesus shines into this world, we would be walking in a dark and dreary existence absent of any promise and hope. But thankfully, Jesus came to earth as a babe and continues to be the reason for the hope and wonder we experience each and every Christmas.
The myth of Santa Claus does give us a glimpse into how men and children desire God to exist, to behave, and to treat them. Fortunately, only God knows what men truly need and only God truly desires and is able to meet those very needs. Nobody sees God, but that does not mean that there is no God. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. But the handiwork of God is evident throughout the universe He has created. His presence is revealed in the transformed lives of those who love and follow Him. Have you ever seen angels watching over you? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in this world created by God.
There is a veil covering the unseen world that not the strongest or smartest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest and smartest men that ever lived, can tear away. Only faith, hope and love can push aside that curtain and reveal the supernatural beauty and glory of the kingdom of heaven. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in this entire world there is nothing else real and lasting except abiding IN Jesus. Thank GOD! He lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of children and adults alike who believe IN Him.
VIRGINIA, as you celebrate Christmas this year may you see the hope and wonder of heaven come to earth in the baby of a Bethlehem manger, may you believe in the love of God shown on a cross long ago and far away on a hill called Calvary, and according to your faith may Jesus fill your heart with the best eternal gift of all – Himself!
And tell your Papa ‘If you see it IN the SON, it’s so.’
I wrote this post 7 or 8 years ago and every Christmas I republish it on the blog. This year via dropbox I am making available for free download a PDF of the two letters that prints up real nice two-sided. Also there is an MP3 of me reading the entire post (it may come up in your media player of choice or the dropbox player – from dropbox you can right-click and save the MP3) … if you’d like to put a voice with a face.