The other night, my six-year-old suggested for her bedtime story that Santa go to church. I cleared my throat and took a deep breath for some inspiration, and tried a story on the requested theme. Here's a more polished version of our story that night...
One year, Santa had to stay for breakfast Christmas morning because he couldn't get back up the chimney. When Kaitlyn came downstairs rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, she found him half-way up the chimney with his bum sticking out of the fireplace. She pulled and pulled until Santa popped out.
When Mom came downstairs and saw Santa sitting dirty and exhausted by the fireplace, she said "Oh dear."
"Your chimney's a little too small," Santa said.
"And you're a little too big," Kaitlyn laughed.
"Yes," he said sadly, "you're right. Too many cookies."
"You poor thing," Mom said, and while they were on the topic of food, she added, "Why don't you stay for waffles and bacon?"
"Well, I am feeling a little peckish for something more wholesome than cookies."
So Santa stayed. Kaitlyn and Karis showed him all their toys, which Santa had delivered the last couple of Christmases: little stuffed animals, a snow globe, a flashlight... Santa yawned but tried to look interested. "Oh, yes, I remember those," he lied.
Dad came trundling down the stairs in his pajamas whistling "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" just as Karis announced, "Dad, Santa's staying for breakfast!"
"Oh brother, what now?" Dad said.
"He got stuck in the chimney because he ate too many cookies," Kaitlyn said, "and I pulled him out!"
Soon waffles and bacon were being passed around the table, the syrup was poured, and lips were smacking.
"Do you suppose I could have one more of those," said Santa, licking a finger. In fact, he said it nine times, and after his tenth waffle he let out a loud burp, rubbed his stomach and groaned. "Sorry, bad vice. And if I'm not careful, the vice might put a grip on my heart." And he tried to laugh, but instead of coming out "ho, ho, ho" it came out "he, he, he."
"What does vice mean?" Kaitlyn whispered to her dad.
"Bad habit," Dad whispered back.
Then Kaitlyn saw a tear come to Santa's right eye. "I know I eat too much," he said. "'More' is my middle name, I'm afraid. Santa More and More Claus."
Mom cleared the table of left-over waffles and bacon before Santa could take another bite. The family hurried to get ready for the Christmas morning church service, except for Kaitlyn, who stayed talking to Santa.
"Why don't you just eat one or two then instead of ten?" Kaitlyn asked.
"Oh, I could never eat just one or two. If I did that, there would eventually be no more Santa, and no one would ever stand for that. You see, if you take the "More and More" out of Santa Claus, you have nothing left -- no Santa and no dolls, no bikes, no TV's or anything-- except for maybe one or two things you get from your parents."
"That reminds me," Kaitlyn said. "I lost my Barbie you got me last Christmas and now I only have eleven left. Could you get me another one?"
"Yes," Santa said with a big sigh as if the weight of the whole world were on his shoulders, "I suppose."
There was a long pause, and then Kaitlyn said, "Do you have any kids?"
"Oh, no," said Santa. "I'm just too busy with all the kids of the world. But I don't often have waffles and bacon with any of them." He smiled at Kaitlyn as if he'd met a long lost friend.
Mom, Dad, and Karis appeared, dressed for church. "Can Santa come to church with us?" Kaitlyn asked.
"You'd better ask him if he wants to," Mom said.
"That would be marvelous," Santa said. "Never been to church before."
Santa insisted he drive them all to church with his sleigh and eight reindeer. So the family piled in with Kaitlyn and Karis sitting on the seat beside Santa, and Mom and Dad sitting atop his enormous pile of presents and hanging on for dear life as they lifted off into the sky.
At church, Santa attracted lots of attention, of course, and all the kids had to touch him and say "hi" and tell him "merry Christmas" with big smiles. Some even gave him candy canes. Santa had never felt so loved. They sang "Joy to the World." The pastor told the Christmas story about when Jesus was born and the poor shepherds saw him first and then ran all over town telling everyone. He said how Jesus was the best gift ever because he was God's love to the whole world, and that was all anyone really needs. At this, Santa's ears pricked up, and with a very calm smile on his face he let out a long sigh. This time it was not the weight of the world ON his shoulders that he felt but the weight of the world falling OFF his shoulders that he felt.
After the church service, Santa gave Kaitlyn a big hug. He said, "You gave me the best gift ever, better than any gift I've ever taken down any chimney. My middle name won't be 'More' anymore. It will be 'Enough,' Santa Enough Claus." Kaitlyn laughed. "Can I come visit again next Christmas?" Santa asked.
Kaitlyn glanced at Dad who smiled and nodded "yes."
Santa jumped onto his waiting sleigh. He waved good-bye, and as Kaitlyn watched him go into the sky, she noticed lots of boxes and bows falling from Santa's sleigh like rain all over Vancouver until his sleigh had less and less and was finally completely empty. As he went, everyone heard him howling louder than they'd ever heard before, "Merry Christmas, everyone! Ho, ho, ho!"
I started writing these posts thinking of them as interruptions of grace in the ordinary and mundane events of life.