It began like any letter we receive here at the North Pole. The writer an 8 year old boy from New York City named Brandon started his letter by telling Santa how important Christmas is in his house and that, he thought — for the most part — he has been a good kid.
Santa knows these things but kids always have to state their side of things anyway. We call that the proactive defense. And smart kids (especially the guilty ones), use this tactic every time. These letters in many respects are always alike. They respect Santa and want to show that.
But after the customary formalities that a letter to Santa entails, Brandon’s letter took on a different tone — a tone that haunts us all here at the North Pole this holiday season. Sadly, it is the kind of letter we have been seeing a lot of recently.
“My mom died on September 11, 2001”, Brandon stated in his letter. “All I want for Christmas is to get her back. Why did she have to die in the building, Santa?”
For as much as we try, the evil in the world would deny us all the warmth and goodwill that Christmas provides. It would seem that this Christmas cannot be made merry by any amount of singing or decorating on a tree. The twinkling of lights, the giving of gifts and the traditional glow of the season all pale in comparison to the disasters of our time. Or so it would appear to be.
But while one such letter tears at our hearts and leaves us wringing our hands in frustration about how to make it better, the same letter gives us great hope. “I still want Christmas this year”, Brandon writes. “It would be better if my mom could be here. But it will still be Christmas when Santa comes”.
Bless Brandon’s heart. His hope gives us all hope!
For as difficult as these last several weeks have been, this will not be the first Christmas where Santa has received letters from kids and adults suffering from the heartache of loss or tragedy. In fact, there has never been a Christmas yet that I can remember where someone has not politely asked Santa to make a sick child well or to bring back a loved one from far away.
But Santa is, after all, just a man. That’s all. To those of us who know him and see him on an almost daily basis, he is a great man. But he puts his pants on the same as all of us. He picks his nose, he swats at flies and he burps just like any other normal person. And while he has the capacity to fill souls with great joy he cannot fix impossible things like cancer, death or the Cubs.
When kids write letters asking impossible things of Santa he worries how to be of help to them. Santa is merely a soldier in the fight of good over evil. And like any lone soldier, he cannot win the battle by himself or take the war completely away.
He can make things merry but evil is a persistent thing. It keeps coming back. And that is all the tragedies of recent weeks have been just another chapter in the story of history’s struggle between the good and the bad. Santa’s still in there on the side of the good. It is just that evil has taken another swipe and the struggle yet continues.
Kids write asking that Santa place bombs in the stockings of the bad guys. They want Santa’s sleigh to be laden with guns or they ask that the reindeer attack by stampede. For some, especially kids like Brandon who have personally suffered from the hands of evil, these feelings run deep. After all, what they really want for Christmas is for the evil in their lives to go away.
But Santa’s role in the fight against evil does not involve violence in any way. Guns and bombs and forces of destruction belong to presidents and armies of great nations. But the fight against evil is more than just wiping bad people from the face of the earth. Evil is overcome by countless armies of people who do good. By engaging in acts of charity; by giving of time, medicine and food; by bestowing upon each other courtesies of kindness and compassion these are Santa’s weapons. And they are very effective.
The hardest question we all face is “why”. Santa can’t give reasons for these things happening. It is as foreign to his good heart as it is to the kids who write and ask those questions. But he does know that they cannot win no matter how long evil persists. For every evil act Santa has seen a thousand-fold return on the acts of good.
When bad things happen to good people Santa has to ask why too. He cries. He hurts. But he has learned that answers to why come by merely continuing the fight against evil. He has learned that the best way to deal with evil is to completely participate in the efforts of the good.
That’s why there is a Santa. That’s why we all work with him here at the North Pole. And that’s why Christmas is so important in the lives of those who celebrate it. It is good. And for times like ours now, it is a most valuable weapon to have.