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TITLE: One More Stop Before Home
By Judy Doyle

Dragging his red bag along the ground, Santa was exhausted. His jolly “hohoho” had changed to “ohohoh.” A frown replaced the smile. Even that red-nosed reindeer and eight companions were dragging their tails. Santa stopped at a local church to rest. It was his usual custom.

Crossing his arms over his fat stomach he bowed his head. Tears fell from his eyes, cascaded over his red-blushed cheeks and onto his white beard. “Oh, God,” he prayed. “What has happened? It’s like everyone has forgotten the reason for this day. The kids believe in me more than they do you. Oh, God, forgive me.” The tears gave way to sobs. Heart-wrenching sobs could be heard everywhere in the church.

Santa was so intent on praying. He failed to hear the door open. It was the pastor. Quietly the pastor slipped into the pew and sat near Santa. After Santa’s sobs had subsided, the pastor broke the silence.

“Santa, you are supposed to be a jolly old elf. What’s wrong?” Despite the pastor’s piercing eyes, Santa felt genuine love and concern.

“Pastor, I’m afraid the children and their parents have forgotten the reason for this special day. They think it is about me, not Jesus. I’ve given them “stuff.” But I know “stuff” doesn’t give contentment. I want to give them joy and contentment. I’ve failed in my task. Will God forgive me?”

A wry smile spread across the pastor’s face and he replied, “Santa, God always forgives. Sometimes we all fail to share the real season for this season. It isn’t your job only. It is my responsibility.” He paused, looked around the church. Opening his arms, he added, “It is our responsibility.” Sitting quietly the two contemplated the situation. Finally, the pastor broke the silence. “Santa, why don’t you write a letter to the editor. Lots of people read the editorial page.”

The elf thought about that suggestion for a few minutes. “Pastor, I think I’ll do that. May I use your computer?”

Winding their way through the hallways, the pastor reached into his pocket and brought out a key ring full of keys. He searched for the office key, and ushered Santa in and showed him the computer. “Santa, I’ll let you write the letter and email it to the paper. When you’re done, just close the door. Have a safe ride home.” He extended his hand and Santa grabbed it firmly and replied,

“Pastor, you’ve taken a load of concern from my shoulders. Thank you. Have a blessed Christmas.” Santa was left to compose his letter. He rubbed his bearded chin from time to time. After several minutes, Santa declared, “That’s exactly what I wanted to say. Thank you, God.” He emailed the letter to the paper. Santa also pressed the “print” button on the computer. He left a copy of the letter for the pastor.

When the pastor returned to his office, he found Santa’s letter. It read,

“To the editor: For decades I’ve listened to children tell me they’ve been good all year and what they wanted for Christmas. Not once was I asked what I wanted. I was the “giving machine.” What do I want? Forget the cookies and milk, a donation to an organization that provides food for the homeless would be fine. My reindeer don’t need food. I feed them every day. Perhaps an animal shelter could use your gift. What do I really want? I want everyone to find the love that came at Christmas. I want people to know the real joy of Christmas. Jesus was not only a baby in a manger. Jesus became a man, he taught, healed and showed the disciples the way to live and transform the world. I want the world to know Jesus died to forgive their sins. However, his life on this terrestrial ball would have been in vain had Jesus not been resurrected from the dead. All this happened because God gave the greatest gift of all . . . his Son. If all the people on earth could share God’s love and joy with each other, then that would be the greatest gift I could received. That’s the gift I want for next year. Until then, I’m going home. Merry Christmas.”
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