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"The 'Jesus Santa'"
(Inspired by the song “Where’s the Line to See Jesus?” - see link to Youtube video below)
Eddie stroked his white beard, grateful he didn’t have to wear the fake one he had 40 years ago when he worked the Santa shift. Here he was again - same red suit, same mall. Providence had brought him back and he was grateful for a job during tough times. The suit fit better now without padding, his own “bowlful of jelly” filling it. The mall was a different story.
The mall manager forbade him to share “The Real Meaning of Christmas” tracts as he had years ago and he was to spend no more than three minutes per child. After all, their parents needed to get to the stores to fulfill their wishes, didn’t they?
“But, it’s Christmas,” he protested. “It’s about Jesus.”
“It’s about business, Eddie, so stay on task here - just be jolly, keep the line moving, so their parents can shop. Would you rather go back to the Mission tent and tell about Jesus for nothing?”
Eddie capitulated, although he didn’t feel jolly about it. He yearned to tell the children about Jesus as he had done before. He loved sharing the Savior’s story and the reason He came, but now. . . a different message prevailed. The “scripted” words were hollow - “Mind your parents. Happy Holidays. Ho, Ho, Ho.”
Glancing at his watch Eddie sighed – his shift was almost over. He looked up to a pair of deep, piercing blue eyes, barely visible below a brow spilling over with golden curls, Before he could say one "Ho“, the girl spoke. “Are you the 'Jesus Santa'?”
Eddie’s own brow rose in wonder. He looked beyond the golden girl for help from the woman he assumed was her mother. She simply shrugged and looked down. The blue eyes remained fixed on him, waiting for an answer.
“What’s your name, child?”
“I’m Mary Katherine. I’m looking for the ‘Jesus Santa’. I’ve been waiting in line to see him.”
“Why do you think I’m him?”
“My daddy told me. He told me how you told him about Jesus.” “Just what did he tell you?”
Mary Katherine folded her arms. “Jesus came to save us from our sins. He died on a cross and now he’s in heaven with God. You know that. My daddy said Jesus sent you at Christmastime to tell people all about Jesus so they could be saved. He said you told him when he was my age and he invited Jesus into his heart. So, are you the ‘Jesus Santa’ or not?”
“Well, Mary Katherine,” Eddie started, then stopped. He spied the mall manager pointing to his watch and making “hurry-up” gestures. He recalled sharing the gospel with many children years ago, but dare he now? Times change, but truth doesn’t.
“Yes, child, I was, am that Santa. I’ll gladly share the story of Jesus – and if you haven’t already, you can invite Him into your heart, too.”
“I knew it was you!” The golden curls intermingled with Eddie's beard as small arms clasped his neck. He squeezed his eyes shut and whispered a prayer. When he opened them he beheld a smile on another face streaming with tears. The woman took Eddie’s hand.
“Thank you. This means so much.”
“Are you her mother?”
“Yes. You’re an answer to prayer. You see, her father came to this same mall when he was five and met a man he called the ‘Jesus Santa’. He told her she could come and meet him this year. But, so many things have happened,” she choked.
“I know.” Eddie patted her hand. He could see the manager making his way to the platform.
Mary Katherine tugged Eddie's sleeve. “What happened is - Daddy went to heaven this year. He’s with Jesus. His last wish was for me to meet the Jesus Santa like he did.”
The manager pushed in front of them, smiling cheerily to the people waiting in line. “Please stay where you are. Santa has to leave for a few minutes. . .uh, to check his lists.”
Leaning close to Eddie’s ear he whispered, “You’re fired!”
Eddie beamed at Mary Katherine and her mother, “Would you accompany me to the Mission tent where we can share the real Christmas story?” They nodded.
Next he turned to the people. “You’ve been waiting in line to see Santa, but if you follow us you’ll find a line to Jesus, where you can receive the best Christmas gift of all – eternal life.”
And Mary Katherine, a little child, led them.
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