Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The great debate

If every month is an awareness for something, then I think December must be Debate Awareness Month and multitudes of people are on a soapbox, prepared to get in on the action.

The Christmas music came on too early or too late. Christmas brunch or Christmas dinner. Lights outside or not. Christmas needs to be a white Christmas or the "I hate snow" camp. Fruitcake as food or fruitcake as doorpost. Just say, "Merry Christmas" and you're gearing up for an earful.

I love to get ideas from other people so I highly appreciate December conversations that turn to how each person or family celebrates Christmas. But if someone starts his/her answer with, "Well, we (or I) don't...," I know I've found myself in the presence of a staunch Debate Awareness Month supporter. I don't even have to see the speaker's classic awareness bumper sticker (half red, half green ribbon, torn between the colors), to know that I'd better settle down for long winter's conversation.

My favorite (or not so favorite) debate is the one that starts with, "Well, we don't do Santa Claus." For some reason, it seems to be humanly impossible to say this without a pious emphasis on the word we, making the sentence come out something like it would if the speaker were saying, "Well, we don't spit on homeless people."

When I taught first grade, Santa Claus was a tricky subject. First graders have not yet learned the skill of debate so it pretty much boils down to Santa is real or he's not, no need to say more. Of course there was usually one evangelist in the group who made it his or her priority to preach the fallacy of Santa to the rest of the class (I was never surprised to see the tell-tale bumper sticker on that car as it drove away). If questioned, I solved the problem by asking the child, "What do your parents tell you? ... Then, that's the way it is." You don't want to mess with the parents at Christmas!

For the record, I know many wonderful adults who sat on Santa's lap as children. And they're Christians, too! *Gasp* And some of them even carry on the tradition today, paying money to have a picture taken of their children with the guy in red. *Double Gasp*

I don't have any pictures of myself sitting on the guy's lap. My children do, however, because I have an uncle who invites the big man down from the North Pole every year to join our family's Christmas dinner. We could handle this situation by preparing our family's debate strategy for the gift-giving floor, starting of course with, "We don't...," but instead we choose to talk about it as a family before we go and when we get home. For the younger family members, we just reiterate the reason we celebrate Christmas, we remind them that the gifts are really bought by their grandparents (and need to be thanked after Santa is thanked), and that it's just a very nice man who enjoys wearing a sweat-inducing red suit for one month every year. Oh, and we remind the kids that it is not our duty to announce St. Nick's realness status in front of the other second cousins. That's a surefire way of not getting an invitation to the Christmas reunion the following year.

And there are those people who truly feel called by God to dress up as Santa every December and who have created ministries around the costume. Hey, if God gives you twinkling eyes, merry dimples, rosy cheeks, a snow white beard, and a nose like a cherry, I think He's trying to tell you something! It would be like my daughter shunning the performance arts even after someone recently told me, "Well, we don't allow our children in any of the performing arts." If God gives you the gifts, and sends you the call, you'd better answer.

Back in high school when I volunteered with a group of mentally challenged girls in a Girl Scout troop, their favorite activity was the annual Christmas party with Santa. I have no idea who the man was who volunteered to come to our meeting to allow these overgrown children, some of whom were quite large, to sit on his lap, sometimes drooling, sometimes making unusual noises, but I know that he was doing a wonderful service.

We personally know a local couple who we call Santa Dan and Delores. Santa Dan, an ordained retired pastor (triple *gasp*), looks very much the part even without the costume. Every year they donate their time and resources to hundreds of organizations and individuals. They have created a ministry that assembles gift boxes for those who are struggling during the holidays. Dressing up as Mr. and Mrs. Claus (Santa Dan does NOT need a fake beard), they will come to any gathering where they are invited. In exchange, they ask for donated food and toys. They contact local pastors and service organizations and get names of families that could use the help. The families are then invited to Santa Dan's stock-piled garage (Santa's workshop?) where it is generously emptied into the hands of the needy. Just this week Delores told me that this year's goal is 200 gift boxes and they currently have 187 local families identified. And just to clear up any confusion, this Santa does not drive a sleigh but uses a bus to transport his toys and food. The writing on the side of Santa's bus? Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

So maybe we need to spend more time talking about what we do celebrate at Christmas and let the red guy worry about himself. I think we could spread a lot more Christmas joy by focusing on Jesus rather than on Santa. Not just if we don't do Santa, but because we don't do Santa.

I'll get off my soapbox now. You can excommunicate me tomorrow.

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