Christmas Eve was always the biggest celebration in my home growing up, and that is one tradition that has carried forward. We’ve added some things to the tradition to make it “CDF” over the past few years, and one thing that we added was the reading of this story.
The kids actually drew pictures to go with the story which we pull out every year, and even though they could do much better drawings now, I love seeing their art from their “littler years’.
I first heard this story years ago – I think when I was in my 20’s. Certainly in my pre-kid years, and I always thought I would share it with my children as I think it does an amazing job of bringing out the real meaning of Christmas. So now, it gets read every Christmas Eve, although I felt like I needed to be reminded of it now with all the hustle and bustle of Christmas….
Just a week before Christmas I had a visitor. This is how it happened. I just finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed when I heard a noise in the front of the house. I opened the door to the front room, and to my surprise, Santa himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree. He placed his finger over his mouth so I would not cry out.
“What are you doing?” I started to ask him.
The words choked in my throat, as I saw he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone. Gone was the eager boisterous soul we all know. He then answered me with a simple statement, “TEACH THE CHILDREN”! I was puzzled: What did he mean? He anticipated my question, and with one quick movement brought forth a miniature toy bag from behind the tree. As I stood there bewildered, Santa said, “Teach the Children! Teach them the old meaning of Christmas. The meaning that a now-a-day Christmas has forgotten”!
I started to say, “How can I…”, when Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a brilliant shiny star.
“Teach the children the star was the heavenly sign of promise long ago. God promised a Saviour for the world and the great star of the East was a sign of the fulfillment of that promise. The countless shining stars at night –one for each man– now show the burning hope of all mankind.”
Santa gently laid the star upon the fireplace mantle and drew forth from the bag a glittering red Christmas tree ornament.
“Teach the children red is the first colour of Christmas. It was the first used by the faithful people to remind them of the blood which was shed for all the people by the Savior. Christ gave His life and shed His blood that every man might have God’s gift of Eternal Life. Red is deep, intense, vivid — it is the greatest colour of all. It is the symbol of the gift of God.”
“Teach the children,” he said as he dislodged a small Christmas tree from the depths of his toy bag. He placed it before the mantle and gently hung the red ornament on it. The deep green of the fir tree was a perfect background for the ornament. Here was the second colour of Christmas.
“The pure green colour of the stately tree remains green all year round,” he said. “This depicts the everlasting hope of mankind. Green is the youthful, hopeful, abundant colour of nature. All the needles point heavenward — symbols of Man’s returning thoughts toward heaven. The great green tree has been man’s best friend. It has sheltered him, warmed him, made beauty for him”.
Suddenly , I heard a soft tinkling sound.
“Teach the children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of the bell, it should ring for all men to return to the fold – it means guidance and return. It further signifies that all are precious in the eyes of the Lord”.
As the soft sound of the bell faded into the night, Santa drew forth a candle. He placed it on the mantle and the soft glow from its tiny flame cast a glow about the darkened room. Odd shapes in the shadows slowly danced and weaved upon the walls.
“Teach the children,” whispered Santa, “that the candle shows man’s thanks for the star long ago. Its small light is the mirror of starlight. At first, candles were placed on the trees — they were like many glowing stars shining against the dark green. Teach the Children that the candle symbolizes that Christ is the light of the world, and when we see this great light we are reminded of He who displaces the darkness”.
Santa turned the small Christmas tree lights on and picked up a gift from under the tree. He pointed to the large bow and said, “A bow is placed on a present to remind us of the spirit of brotherhood of man. We should remember that the bow is tied as men should be tied, all of us together, with the bonds of good will toward each other. Goodwill forever is the message of the bow.
Next, Santa pointed to the gift and said, “Teach the Children that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift. Teach the Children that the wise men bowed before the holy babe and presented Him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We should give gifts in the same spirit as the wise men.”
He reached in his bag and pulled out a holly leaf. “Teach the Children the holly plant represents immortality. It represents the crown of thorns worn by our Savior. The red holly berries represent blood shed by Him”.
Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a candy cane and hung it on the tree. “Teach the Children that the candy cane represents the shepherd’s crook. The crook on the shepherd’s staff helps bring back strayed sheep from the flock. The candy cane represents the helping hand we should show at Christmas time and all through the year. It is the symbol that we are our brother’s keeper”.
He reached in again and pulled out an angel. “Teach the Children that it was the angels that heralded in the glorious news of the Savior’s birth. The angels sang ‘Glory to God in the highest, on earth, peace and good will.”
Santa looked about the room, a feeling of satisfaction shone on his face. He read wonderment in my eyes, and I am sure he sensed admiration for this night.
Once again he reached into his bag and then removed a large wreath and placed it on the door and said, “Teach the Children that the wreath symbolizes the eternal nature of love; it never ceases, stops or ends. It is one continuous round of affection. The wreath does double duty. It is made of many things and in many colours. It should remind us of all the things of Christmas”.
I pondered and wondered and thrilled with delight
As I sat and viewed all those symbols at night.
I dozed as I sat in the soft candlelight,
And my thoughts were of Santa and all he made right.
To give and to help, to love and to serve,
Are the best things of life all men can deserve.
Old Santa Claus – that jolly old elf,
Is the very best symbol of Christmas itself.
He’s the sign of the gifts of love and of life,
The ending of evil, the ceasing of strife.
His message to me on this pre-Christmas night,
Has opened a treasure of deepest insight,
The one thing on earth we all ought to do,
Is teach all the children the right, the truth
And the love of God too.