December 18, 2019
Rev. Estelle Margarones
A few years ago, my brother announced to me, “Christmas is a secular holiday.” I was so taken aback that I didn't respond well. I've had some time to think about it now, and here's my response: Yes, there may well be more than one side of Christmas. You may concentrate on the secular. I will concentrate on the sacred.
The secular side of Christmas tells us that if we love someone, we'll get them a gift, and have it wrapped 'just so'. The sacred side tells us we've already gotten the gift in God's love. The secular side says we have to make everything perfect for the holidays. The sacred side reminds us that holidays are holy days and they're already perfect.
The secular side demands that photo with Santa, even though the kids are crying in that photo op. It encourages us to circle for spaces at Kennebunkport's 'Prelude to Christmas' and at the mall. The secular side, while in some ways very meaningful, does seem to me to enable, if not downright encourage, overspending, overeating, and overextending.
What if, in this last week before Christmas, we concentrate on the miraculous gifts we've already received? The miracle of knowing that you're not alone. The miracle of knowing someone sees you day and night. The miracle of knowing that something special happened long ago and that it still influences our lives today. The miracle of knowing that God loved you even before you were born and that God loves you now, just as you are.
Happiness is an inside job. It isn't the result of getting something you don't have. Rather, happiness is the result of being grateful for what you do already have. And we've already got what we need. Forget settling for 'happy'--let's be joyful. The angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy! For unto you this night in the city of David is born a savior.” Thanks be to God!
After I read "Santa's Secret Wish" at Christmas in the Village, I received some requests to share it so I've pasted it in below. Most sources indicate that the author is 'anonymous', but one credits Betty Werth. On a related subject, copyright law prohibits me from pasting in a picture of Santa worshipping Jesus at the manger, but it's a picture worth a thousand words and I encourage you to Google it.
Santa’s Secret Wish
On Christmas Eve, a young boy with light in his eyes
Looked deep into Santa’s, to Santa’s surprise.
And said as he nestled on Santa’s broad knee,
“I want your secret. Please tell it to me.”
He leaned up and whispered in Santa’s good ear.
“How do you do it, year after year?
I want to know how, as you travel about,
Giving gifts here and there, you never run out.
How is it, Dear Santa, that in your pack of toys
You have plenty for all of the world’s girls and boys?
Stays so full, never empties, as you make your way
From rooftop to rooftop, to homes large and small,
From nation to nation, reaching them all?”
And Santa smiled kindly and said to the boy,
“Don’t ask me hard questions. Don’t you want a toy?”
But the child shook his head, and Santa could see
That he needed the answer. “Now listen to me,”
He told the small boy with the light in his eyes,
“My secret will make you both sadder and wise.
The truth is that my sack is magic. Inside
It holds millions of toys for my Christmas Eve ride.
But although I do visit each girl and each boy
I don’t always leave them a gaily wrapped toy.
Some homes are too hungry, some homes are too sad,
Some homes are desperate, some homes are bad.
Some homes are broken, and children there grieve.
Those homes I do visit, but what should I leave?
My sleigh is filled with the happiest stuff,
But for homes where despair lives, toys aren’t enough.
So I tiptoe in, kissing each girl and each boy,
And I pray with them that they’ll be given the joy
Of the spirit of Christmas, the spirit that lives
In the heart of the dear child who gets not, but gives.
If only God hears me and answers my prayer,
When I visit them next year, what I will find there
Are homes filled with peace, and with giving, and love
And boys and girls gifted with light from above.
It’s a very hard task, my smart little brother,
To give toys to some, and to give prayers to others.
But the prayers are the best gifts, the best gifts indeed,
For God has a way of meeting each need.
That’s part of the answer. The rest, my dear youth,
Is that my sack is magic. And that is the truth.
In my sack I carry on Christmas Eve day
More love than a Santa could e`er give away.
The sack never empties of love, or of joys
`Cause inside it are prayers, faith and hope. Not just toys.
The more that I give, the fuller it seems,
Because giving is my way of fulfilling dreams.
And do you know something? You’ve got a sack, too.
It’s as magic as mine, and it’s inside of you.
It never gets empty, it’s full from the start.
It’s the center of lights, and of love. It’s your heart.
And if on this Christmas you want to help me,
Don’t be so concerned with the gifts `neath your tree.
Open that sack called your heart, and then share
Your joy and your friendship, your wealth and your care.”
The light in the small boy’s eyes was glowing.
“Thanks for the secret. I’ve got to be going.”
“Wait, little boy,” said Saint Nick, “Please don’t go.
Will you share? Will you help? Will you use what you know?”
And just for a moment the small boy stood still,
Touched his heart with his hand and whispered,
Together, we can bring Christ's word and work to the world.