We’ve reached the season of the Christmas list. Children far and near are making careful notes as to what exactly they would like Santa to bring them. While these lists contain an amusing variety including the improbable (a pony!), the impossible (a griffin!) and the heartbreaking (a military parent home for Christmas) as well as your standard covetous and grasping, that is not the kind of Christmas list I’m thinking of. No, I’m considering the other side of the equation.
Santa, we’re told, is “making a list, checking it twice.” Santa is “gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.” Does this strike you as just the tiniest bit creepy? Talk about Big Brother. Really, what defines someone as naughty or nice? Anyone I’ve ever met is some combination – mostly nice, but with regular lapses. Does Santa have some sort of computer algorithm that assigns a point value to acts, naughty or nice, and then spits out a conclusion on the balance?
What I really wonder, I guess, is whether anyone really ever gets a lump of coal. Are we ever judged that inadequate, that naughty? Would a “right jolly old elf” ever decide that a person is so bad that they don’t even deserve an orange at the bottom of their stocking?
Don’t we all, in the end, receive a shower of gifts, without regard to our naughty/nice quotient? Trees and mountains, air and sunshine, birds, oceans, sunsets, rain, wildflowers, fat bumblebees—doesn’t it all come to us in an overflowing profusion, far beyond what we can measure, let alone fit under a Christmas tree?
What if there is no list, and no one is checking to see if we measure up? What if the whole scheme rests, not on the threat of punishment, but rather on the premise that we long to give back as we are given to, that we find our joy in returning to the world as beautiful a reflection of what we are given as we can muster?
I’ll say it. I don’t believe in Santa—not the one with the twice-checked list at any rate. I am, however, a steadfast fan of the reindeer, who are so in love with the idea of delivering gifts that they are, against all reason, able to fly.