A shortened, devotional version of this story appears Christmas Eve on the PCC Website. No less true. http://daily.presbycan.ca/index1.html
In late fall, the year I was in second grade, a disturbing rumour surfaced at St. Anne's Elementary School. Few things could upset the apple cart the way this did. Pam, from grade five, the street "wise-apple", told me that what I heard was actual fact. Cathy and Patty from across the street were skeptical. Martha just cried. I was tempted to believe it, but needed to go to the people I trusted most in the world for confirmation. That Saturday, determined to set this to rest, I approached my dad as he was giving his '62 Ford Falcon a thorough waxing. "Dad," I said, "The girls at school are telling me something mean. I need to know if it's true." My lower lip trembled as I spilled out my concern. He slowly stopped what he was doing, looked into my eyes and confirmed the worst. "Yep, it's true. Santa Claus isn't real. We pretend. It's just a fun game we play. Your mom and I put the gifts under the tree. Santa Claus is a tradition, something to make believe in for little kids. But you're a big girl now, and I know that you want the truth. That guy couldn't fit down our chimney, right?." I knew that was logical, so I nodded, sucked back tears to show my Dad that I was a "big girl." My dad's instructions were clear. "Now, don't go telling your little brothers. Let them have some fun with this for a couple of years."
Well that helped. With that, I felt a new found power, the power of a secret and started to skip down the driveway. I had another thought, stopped abruptly, turned around and went back. "Dad, is it the same for the Easter Bunny?" "Yes," he said, "and the Tooth Fairy too." Well, I kept that secret until almost dinner time. When my dad came in, there were my two little brothers bawling their eyes out. Dad was not too pleased. Mom neither. But it was the truth, and I thought they should know.
Finding out that there was no Santa Claus got me thinking. For one thing, it cleared up what I had always wondered about...why did Santa Claus, who was a virtual stranger give me gifts, but my parents, who loved me, did not? Now I knew. That was a relief. And more importantly, with Santa out of the way, my heart opened more fully to hearing about the Christ Child.
Attending Catholic school, I heard all about the baby Jesus. Christmas was a time of great celebration. Mrs. Duke would sing "O Holy Night" from the choir loft accompanied by her daughter on violin. In our church, there was a life sized Nativity scene. My favourite part was a little angel that would nod its head if a nickel was placed in the slot in its hands. I loved that and took more than a few nickels to make the angel nod. My parents always took us to church, determined to make good Catholics out of us. Even then, I knew that Jesus was real. A real and living God.
As things ramped up to the big day, we could hardly contain our excitement as we anticipated opening presents, going to Grandma's and seeing the cousins. I was really hoping for a Barbie doll and could picture it wrapped and under the tree. But something was nagging at my young spirit. Amidst the decorating of the tree, the baking of the cookies and the traditional family car ride to see all the lights, I sensed more and more that Jesus was the focus in all this, or should have been. I didn't tell my parents or anyone else what I was thinking, but I felt sad a lot that Christmas, thinking that not enough attention was being paid to the Saviour.
On Christmas Eve, we had the usual problem settling down to sleep. I made myself stay awake, as I had something important to do. I waited until my brothers were asleep, and then dozed fitfully until I saw the light go off under my parents' bedroom door. I waited a full five minutes and crept out into the living room. The tree lights were safely unplugged, but the streetlights, streaming in from the window were reflected in the shiny tinsel and glass ornaments on the tree. I found my way to the television set and knelt down in front of it. On the top, my mother had set out the nativity scene, complete with a glittering star I had made in Kindergarten. I picked up the little ceramic baby Jesus and started to cry. "It's you, it's you, it's you. It's not Santa, it's nobody else. It's only about you. It's all about you." That was the first time I felt the presence of God. The Holy Spirit was drawing me to Jesus, the Truth.
I would like to say I grew up and followed him all my days, but sadly, I cannot. Through all my wayward teenage years into young adulthood, no matter what, I knew that Jesus was real. I gave my heart fully to him when I was 23, and I'll never forget that night in front of the television. It was a Christmas of revelation, a Christmas of Truth.