Dear old and new friends,
Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra in southwest Turkey, while immigrating to America found that his golden shimmering halo and ornate episcopal vestments had been stolen, but in their place was a Nordic red and white fur-trimmed suit of clothes. The early Dutch settlers pronounced his name, “Sinterklaas,” easily mispronounced as “Santa Claus.” In these December weeks the jolly, smiling white-bearded face of this saintly giver of gifts seems to be everywhere.
Small children profess an infallible, dogmatic belief in him. Adults are Santa atheists! These “closet atheists” don’t outwardly deny his existence…especially to their own children. Unlike some atheists, Santa infidels don’t write books about his non-existence or the ridiculousness of his circling the globe in a single night to gift children. A scholar (whose name I’ve forgotten) once replied when asked if he believed in the existence of God, “No, I do not believe God exists—and I miss him!” Sinter Klaas atheists say the same, for faith in him includes the magical, whimsical fantasy, daydreams, make-believe and active presence among us of elves, fairies, leprechauns and message-delivering angels.
Compared to a child’s world, Santa atheists live in a shrunken merry-less world congested with dreary practicalities and endless problems. Their world suffers a drought of wild imagination, hilarity, joyous surprises and eagerly animated anticipation. If this sounds like where you live, and you desire to live in a happier place, here’s a suggestion: Go to a department store and the throne of Santa Claus, then go up to him and ask to be converted as a one of his believers!
Be prepared, he’ll ask you to enter his convert course by engaging daily in that legendary childhood practice of pretending. Belief in him means make-believing you are him, not by dressing up in his red outfit but by imitating his merry jolliness in life’s difficulties, be they as unpleasant as descending dirty, sooty chimneys. Emanate his anonymous gift giving and experience his joyousness in secret gifting. Paradoxically, imitate him as an atheist, a nonbeliever that your gifts must be acknowledged by obligatory “thank you” notes.
As a believer/disciple you will acquire St. Santa’s miraculous eyes capable of recognizing those who are hungry for gifts, both rich and poor, along with his great passion to feed that hunger. Pretend spring, summer, autumn and winter, and I assure you not only Santa Claus and his elves but the entire enchanted world of a child will be yours…yes, for by pretending you become a child again and a saint!