“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”-Unknown
Deciding not to raise our children with the Santa lore was one of the first child-rearing decisions Leigh Anne and I made. Some of the reasons escape me at the moment. I think the overarching reason was that we did not want to perpetuate an addictive value of greed and “gimme” with the Christmas season. I also remember not wanting our children to later find out we had been telling them falsehoods (though I can’t tell you why this justification slipped my mind when I quietly entered their room, traded a tooth for money and decorated the carpet with glitter!?)
We instructed them to keep the truth of Santa a “family secret” as all of their friends probably believed in Santa. Family and friends would ask them what they wanted Santa to bring them for Christmas which evoked a look of bewilderment. I coached them to respond with “world peace.”
One of our children didn’t believe us. This particular child argued with us and received validation from school friends and teachers regarding their fierce belief in Santa Clause. I quoted statistics of how many houses Santa needed to visit within the hour in each time zone. I inquired how Santa entered houses without true fireplaces. I showed how the North Pole was uninhabitable.
None of this mattered. Our child believed that Santa Clause existed, and no solid argument would convince otherwise.
Where does our truth come from? Or, what shapes our consideration of truth? What un-truths, fake news, and lies have we believed and justified?
Christmas marks the beginning of the Jesus story. But there’s a quote towards the end of the Jesus story, according to the Gospel of John, that reaches out and asks me to dance. It’s not spoken by Jesus. Pontius Pilate asks it of Jesus during His trial.
“What is truth?”
Unbeknownst to us, we all function from our own set of truths each day, though I imagine most of the them never cross the forefront of our cognizant mind. We make decisions and judgments based on our truths. We read stories and reports that corroborate our truth. (The internet did not create this; someone just figured out how to make a buck stroking our confirmation bias.)
Occasionally, we are given a gift of seeing a held truth and discerningly observe it from the outside. This occurred for me in our most recent election. In the past twenty-five years, I have found myself both in the evangelical and progressive camps of Christianity. In my humble observations, I have recognized a widely-held belief that if we setup a Christian government (as defined by the evangelical or progressive), then the country will finally be on track for how God desires humanity to live and relate. Our hope for a more just, equitable or moral country lies in our political process and elected officials.
But, for me, the Christmas Story questions our hard reliance on political power to create a better world. For I wonder, if God really wanted to make a big impact, why not have Jesus born into royalty? Why not have Jesus be born into the line of succession as a Caesar. Or even a Roman senator or dignitary?
But that’s not what we get when the curtain opens. Jesus is born to the lower class, to a manual laborer and a teenager. He is born amongst smelly animals and placed in their food receptacle. Repugnant outsiders were the only ones who visited as they were the only ones told. It was the political power that attempted to kill him. And later the religious authority who hated him. And finally a sordid marriage of political and religious leaders that oversaw his death sentence.
The Christmas Story was not meant to be made innocuous and sterile through its ubiquitous displays and sentimental songs. It knocks our propped-up truths sideways and tasks us to answer if our truths are really working? And if they’re not, why do we insist on spending so much energy propping them back up?
It’s 12:01 a.m. and Santa has yet to show up. Maybe this truth isn’t working after all.
(to be continued…)