Christmas Magic

My son is right on the verge about Santa Claus. His faith has been severely shaken this year, because people tend to forget that despite his ridiculous height, he's only ten years old.

I think he likes the idea of Santa and doesn't want to give it up, given his fondness for magic and mystery in the things he likes to read. When he asks me, I tell him the same thing for Santa as for the Tooth Fairy and ghosts and fairies and things that go chomp in the night: Just because I haven't seen something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Grammatically incorrect, but true. I've never seen a ghost, but plenty of people I know say they have, and who am I to tell them they're wrong?

Last night as we drove home from the movies, he wanted to talk about Santa again. I told him that we put too much emphasis on the particulars of magic, and we leave aside the power of faith. I got a big "huh?" and so I tried again.

I believe in magic. I believe in the power of things unseen to bring about good things in this world. There are many more people who believe in angels in this world than believe in fairies, and why should that be? I don't know if there's a real Santa, because I've never seen him. But I also know how good things can simply appear in this life, and who am I to say who's causing them?

Remember Elmer Hawkins, I said. Just when we needed it, four crates of food simply appeared on our doorstep. Just when we needed it, a gift card for groceries arrived in the mail. One time we came home and there was a new dryer in our closet, or the time the apartment was cleaned while we were out of town. There was a time two new tires mysteriously appeared on my car when I was fretting how to replace them. And perhaps the example of Elmer Hawkins is our own magical Santa Claus, with sleigh driven by a deliveryman from Schnucks Market.

There was even a time, years and years ago, when I was in the middle of my divorce and sleeping on the floor because my ex got the bed and borrowing money from my grandmother so I could afford to put my things in storage and move into my father's guest room. I had just gotten my first book contract, and I had no computer. And a Mac laptop suddenly appeared on my doorstep. It was a wonderful secondhand machine, and it made it possible for me to do what I needed to do.

It, like the Tivo and the gift cards and other kindnesses over the years, have simply appeared on our doorstep. And that's not going into the helpful generosity where I know whodunnit (Nyssa, I'm lookin' at you. Shaddup, nobody knows that nickname but you and me.)

We are blessed with random acts of kindness. Isn't that magic?

I'm going to shade into religion for a moment, so forgive me, but it was part of the conversation. I reminded my boy of the tale of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Any rational person would tell you that it is simply impossible to feed five thousand people from two fish and five loaves. Others toss it off to the hocus-pocus of automatic faith; Jesus did it, therefore it was done.

Once, though, I heard an Episcopal priest posit that perhaps there were five thousand people there. And when someone saw that these men would share their food - which was barely enough even to feed the twelve - that person considered that there was a small bit of food he had reserved for the walk home. A bit of bread, or a piece of fruit.

Inspired by their generosity, he shared what he had saved for himself with the person next to him. And that person, inspired by his generosity, shared with the next. The people around them saw others sharing, and decided to do so themselves.

And lo, the five thousand were fed. With enough left over to feed the twelve.

No hocus-pocus, no waving of a magic wand. But does that make it any less of a miracle? Is there not still magic in the kindness of human beings to help one another, in time of need or simply because the spirit moves them? We call it "pay it forward." But it is as old as the baby in the manger; older, even.

I believe in magic, because I have seen it. I cannot say that there are no fairies, because I've been touched by pixie dust. And I cannot say that there is no Santa simply because I've never seen him. I've had too much love in my life to stomp my foot and say, "Bah humbug."

So whether or not an actual red-clad elf pops in tonight, I told him, there is always magic in the world. And maybe that mystery should be enough for us, at least on the night in which the King of Kings was born. The example he set for us to love one another, to share what we have with the person next to us, to treat one another as we would choose to be treated ourselves... that's enough magic for me. Because the five thousand are fed, and the family is gathered, and there is enough love in the world to make us all whole.


  1. Anonymous12:33 PM

    You inspire me. Thank you.

  2. I know that nickname.

  3. Anonymous10:01 PM

    That was... absolutely beautiful...

    The best Christmas sermon I've ever heard (and yes, I know I'm Jewish, but I've volunteered at enough Christmas services to have heard many over the years)...

    Have you ever considered a career switch to be clergy?

  4. That was fantastic.

    I know it's late, but still.


Post a Comment