I found Christmas very troubling as a child. It made absolutely no sense to me why everyone, including grownups I trusted, went along with what was clearly a hoax - that Santa was real.
How could it possibly be true? He didn’t look the same from store to store. For starters, his nose changed from place to place. Each Santa had a different voice and smell. (One Santa even smelled like mothballs.) Sometimes Santa was jolly but at the next store he might be sort of cranky. I remember demanding an explanation, “Why is Santa here and down the street at the same time?” The answer was that Santa had helpers, so then I wanted to know if the one I saw was the real thing – or just a helper, because surely it made a difference.
It. Made. No. Sense.
So I can remember sitting on Santa’s knee at the Sears and Roebuck department store, looking around at everyone else, hoping to make eye contact with anyone who might nod and give me a clue that they also knew the terrible truth. Hey, y'all. Is no one seeing what I'm seeing here?
Each year this charade became increasingly troubling to me the closer we got to Christmas. So by Christmas morning, right after opening my presents and seeing what “Santa” had left for me, I spent the rest of the morning lying on the sofa, sick with a terrible upset stomach. My parents always chalked it up to excitement. It was actually bewilderment that everyone was going along with something that was clearly a big fat lie.
Okay, I am acutely aware that I was ridiculously and unnecessarily analytical. I get that. However, once I finally declared that I did not believe in Santa, and my parents confirmed I was right, I was never sick on Christmas again.
What made more sense to me, though, was that Christmas was about celebrating the birth of Jesus. I loved the Christmas story of Mary miraculously becoming pregnant, and Joseph supporting her even though it probably made no sense to him and required superhuman faith. I found it exciting and fascinating, that wise men carried all kinds of exotic gifts and followed a brilliant star in the sky until they found baby Jesus. It was also such a moving image for Jesus, our Lord and Savior, to begin his life in an ordinary barn with farm animals. It made him so real – just like us. For God to send his only son to save us, when none of us really deserved it, well this just proved his powerful love for us, which was incredibly comforting and humbling. And for Jesus to come as a baby, knowing that he would die the most cruel death of all – just for each of us to have everlasting life – this made my heart sing and ache at the same time. Now, that was a Christmas story that made sense, even though so much of it was even harder to explain than Santa and his flying reindeer.
All of this is why it hurts my heart every time I hear of someone wanting to take Jesus out of his own birthday. How can that make any sense? What would be the meaning of Christmas if not for the celebration of Jesus’ birth? What would we be celebrating? Ourselves? Or nothing at all?
Through the years several people have suggested to me that we take Jesus out of Blue Monarch, too. After all, this would allow us to “reach a larger audience and perhaps gain greater support”. The first time I heard this my knee jerk reaction surprised me. My heart began to physically hurt in my chest and I remember wondering if Jesus’ heart was hurting, too. But my answer has always been the same. Jesus is not negotiable. We have Blue Monarch because of Jesus and I keep this picture in my office as a constant reminder.
Each week our staff prays together for the women and children we are serving and for the wisdom and discernment to do our jobs well. Jesus’ presence in that room is sometimes so tangible it brings tears to my eyes. It’s powerful. Blue Monarch is where hundreds of children have learned about Jesus for the first time and really grasped that he loves them and will always be with them – even after they leave Blue Monarch one day. Jesus assures some of the women who need to know, that the love of a heavenly father can be quite different from the love of an earthly father. And Jesus is the one who sometimes gently whispers in my ear, “Remember, this woman is my child and I love her. So look at her through my eyes.”
Jesus is not only the reason for the season. He is the reason for the hope and healing Blue Monarch offers to his wounded women and children who come to us for help. After all, they don’t just show up by accident. Jesus is the one who sends them.
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9
That’s a day worth celebrating. And it has a name. Christmas.