: what I learned about Jesus from Santa Claus

Every year on Christmas Eve, I helped my grandfather dress up like Santa Claus in the garage so he could make a special visit to my little cousins. I stuffed a pillow in his costume for a belly, covered his cheeks with rosy blush, and pulled out the same white wig he’d been using since 1993. He made a big entrance on the outside porch, waved to the kids through the window, dropped off a few presents, and escaped just before they could get a good glimpse of his face.

I loved seeing my cousins’ eyes fill with wonder. They screamed and jumped and trampled over each other to get the presents Santa left them: “I can’t believe he visited us,” they’d say, trying to figure out how he could possibly make it to the kids in China before morning. Like clockwork, my grandfather would walk in after his conveniently timed nap, stretch out his hands and yawn, then ask what all the fuss was about.
You’ll never believe it! Santa came! He really came! You missed it!
I think I saw Rudolph on the roof, too!
He gave us presents a day early, can you believe it!
My grandfather laughed and smiled and asked a hundred questions: “What did Santa look like?” “Did you see what color eyes he had?” “Is his belly as big as everyone says it is?” Hour after hour, year after year, he listened to his grandchildren talk about Santa’s visit. His eyes were full of wonder, too—almost like something came alive in him when they talked about it with such confidence. Knowing the kids were clueless about his identity as Santa Claus, my grandfather wasn’t too concerned. He knew that one day, they’d understand. In due time, they’d be in on the big secret, too. One day, they’d be the ones stuffing pillows and helping put on fake wigs to give the next generation of children wonderstruck eyes. For now, he was satisfied with being wondered at.
It makes me think of when I first wondered about Jesus. I couldn’t make out his face, but I knew he was real. I knew it was him. I remember talking to my friends, babbling on and on about the new things I discovered: “Can you believe the cross covers it all? Like right now, he loves me as I am! Not some future version of me! Can you believe it?” I bet it brought so much delight to God, for me to be asking and believing and marveling about him. Day after day, year after year, he waved from the back porch, leaving gifts for me to rip open and enjoy. I had been wondering my whole life, really, until it clicked: He is real. Like reallyreal. It didn’t seem to bother him that I didn’t fully understand the magnitude of his identity—that he was both the Giver and the Gift, the Wonder and the Wonderful One. He knew that one day, I’d be in on the big secret. He knew that in time, I would bear the image of Wonder, too.
Let us not lose sight of the simple enchantment of the Gospel—that God has gone to great lengths to make himself accessible. He waves at all of us from the back porch, leaving presents for us to enjoy for enjoyment’s sake. Remember that he delights in your delight of him. Let your eyes be filled with wonder, knowing he is real and chose to visit you.
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” –Matthew 18:3

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