A minister from Amarillo, Texas, just made the news amid reports he harassed children waiting in line to see Santa in North Pole, Alaska.
Yes, I know how whacky that sounds. But this is 2017, remember?
The Rev. David Grisham apparently has made it his mission to make sure kids know "the truth" about Christmas, namely that it commemorates the birth of Jesus.
The same Jesus who would be appalled and infuriated that a grown man is running all over the country terrorizing children. The Gospel of Mark records that Jesus scolded his own disciples who were trying to shoo away kids who wanted to see him.
No one dents-and-scratches their own brand quite like religious folks.
The thing is, Grisham, who pulled the same stunt at a mall in Amarillo in 2010, couldn’t be more wrong.
Of course Santa exists.
It isn’t a coincidence the story of St. Nicholas is bound to Christmas. History tells us Nicholas, the bishop of Myrna, Turkey, devoted his time and treasure to the care and feeding of destitute children.
There’s no better testament, no better way to share the story of Jesus’ life than giving, especially to the most vulnerable.
The problem has never been with Santa; it’s with us. We’ve turned Christmas into a mess, veering between an orgy of crass materialism and a litmus test by which we decide who’s worthy.
The current president’s promise to "bring back" Christmas is nothing more than a bone thrown to voters who should know better, a willful misunderstanding that Christmas has never depended on how many people say, "Merry Christmas."
And yes, even St. Nicholas’ story has been warped by commercialism, but that doesn’t make his true story any less needful and compelling.
His story fits perfectly with Christmas. The son of a wealthy family, he surrendered his privilege to dedicate himself to God by serving the least among us.
In a world enamored with power, money and boastfulness, Christmas is the story of God among us, opting for humility over noise, grandeur and bling.
Footsteps of the bishop
A creator’s desire to connect with humanity is evident in his incarnation as a child born in a borrowed cave and a man who also would be buried in one.
Grisham, in his self-righteous crusade, dares to presume to know what parents are teaching their kids about Christmas simply because they’re visiting Santa.
Surely, there are some needy kids in Amarillo who could use something more than a Bible-thumping lecture.
No one outgrows a need for Santa, by the way. Wherever there is a need, wherever there is hunger or loneliness, wherever some child doesn’t have a warm coat to wear, there’s a need to replicate the same kind of generosity St. Nicholas practiced.
What’s heartening is to see so many people following in the footsteps of the bishop. From Red Kettles, to Toys for Tots, to Community Christmas, to Coats for Kids, millions of people celebrate Christmas in the spirit in which it was intended.
The swaddled newborn who grew up to declare "the greatest among you shall be the servant" most certainly called St. Nicholas to help carry out his mission.
The world is hard enough. If believing in Santa is the worst thing a kid does in life, we all should be thrilled.
Adulthood will be here soon enough. We could use more who were exposed to the story of St. Nicholas — to outnumber the David Grishams.
Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.