Around this time of the year, The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage and I revel in our family memories.
Unlike me, she has some wonderful memories because of her large family. I came from a very small family and therefore don't have that many memories let alone wonderful memories.
This reminded me of my first encounter with what my parents called Santa Claus.
Growing up, we didn't have television, and the teachers at the school I attended were mostly Mennonites. They didn't celebrate Santa Claus, and there was no mention of him in our classes. Christmas was focused on the birth of Christ.
In a small town like ours, there weren't any shopping malls, so there was no place for Santa Claus to set up his little booth and greet all the little children during the Christmas season.
Then one Christmas, Santa Claus and his entourage set up in our downtown square. Everybody was invited to come and see Santa Claus.
I mentioned this to my father and asked him about Santa Claus.
"Well," my father said, "you go see Santa Claus, sit on his lap and tell him what you want for Christmas."
When I heard that my eyes just lit up in great delight. "You mean I can tell Santa Claus what I want for Christmas?"
With a smile on his face, my father shook his head most energetically. I believed him; after all, fathers don't lie.
All I ever wanted for Christmas when I was young was a pony. Now, with Santa Claus in town, I had the opportunity to request a pony for this Christmas. I can't tell you how excited I was.
My parents took me and my siblings downtown at the square to meet Santa Claus. I was excited, and so were my siblings. We chattered and chattered all the way the Santa's place. We told each other what we wanted Santa to bring us for Christmas.
I remember that first experience with Santa Claus. As I walked up and sat in his lap, I was a wee bit nervous. Then the thoughts dancing in my head was that this was my opportunity to get my long-awaited pony for Christmas
"Ho, ho, ho, and what would you like for Christmas this year, little fella?"
I wanted to hear that all my life. I then explained to him that all I wanted for Christmas was a pony. Any color pony would do as long as it was a pony. So I explained to him what I would do with a pony and how it would change my life and everything.
As he listened to me, he was chuckling, "Ho, ho, ho."
When I finished my request, he said, "Young man is that really what you want for Christmas? If so, you'll have to be nice and not naughty because if you're naughty, I can't do it."
With a hearty nod and a smile on my face, I promised I would never be naughty.
As I left dear old Santa's lap, all I could think of was how this little pony he would bring me on Christmas day would change my life. That's all I could talk about on the way home that day.
I did notice that my father and mother were looking at each other but not smiling and I did not catch what was happening.
On Christmas Eve, as we got the Christmas tree all ready, I was excited, and I made a little space under the tree for the pony Santa would bring me that night.
It was hard to sleep because I was listening for the reindeer to land on the roof with my pony for Christmas. Eventually, I fell asleep and dreamed of that wonderful little pony all night.
I couldn't wait to get up that morning, and I ran into the living room where the Christmas tree was. I shouted excitedly, "Where's my pony?"
My father tried to explain that perhaps I had been on Santa's "naughty list," and he couldn't bring me that pony for Christmas this year.
I shed tears all day, and the following days were terrible.
For the next three Christmases, I did the same thing. Every Christmas, Santa promised to bring me a pony for Christmas as long as I was not naughty.
Christmas after Christmas and no pony. I tried to have my father explain to me what Santa's definition of naughty was. He tried to explain, but I couldn't understand what he was talking about at the time.
I could not believe that that wonderful person called Santa Claus could ever lie to someone like me. So what did I ever do to get on his naughty list?
I never went back to sit on Santa's lap ever again. But, later in life, I realized that the guy in the red suit was lying to me, and he wasn't really Santa Claus.
Thinking about this I remembered what the Angels told the shepherds on that glorious day. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11-12).
The real purpose of Christmas is celebrating the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. My life changed when I received him as my Lord and Savior. Yours can too.
Dr. James L. Snyder, is pastor of the Family of God Fellowship, 1471 Pine Road, Ocala, FL 34472. He lives with his wife in Silver Springs Shores. James is an award winning author whose books are available at https://amzn.to/2SMOjwO.