“Sardines and crackers? Why would Santa want sardines and crackers?” I asked my mother. My little brother and I knew that Santa wanted cookies and milk. He told us himself when we sat in his lap in Woolworth’s. Mom said, “Well, that’s right sometimes, but Santa told me that he wanted sardines and crackers at our house.” She smiled as we got a can of sardines and a few saltines and put them on the table for Santa. My brother and I scurried off to bed and I went to sleep dreaming of riding the new bike Santa would bring. Santa stood by eating sardines and crackers.
I figured out a couple of years later that Santa was really mom and dad. No real Santa would ever eat sardines. They were awful and smelly. Only my father could bear to eat them. I asked my dad who Santa really was and he said that Santa was the spirit of Christmas but he and mom bought the gifts. That made a little sense to me since I had heard about the Holy Spirit in Sunday school. That bit of information did cause somewhat of a stir at my grade school when I told Billy Robertson that Santa and the Holy Ghost were kinda like brothers. My mom got a call from the school and I was severely reprimanded and sent to my room to think about what I had done. I thought about it and figured that I had gotten it wrong. Santa and the Holy Ghost were not brothers but cousins. I never brought it up again.
Now, as I reflect on those early Christmas seasons, I remember family, food, gifts, squabbles, excitement, disappointment and depression. I remember seeing baby Jesus in the manger and even being in Christmas pageants, but for me Jesus was always part of the scenery, not the object of my Christmas affections. Even as a young church member, I didn’t know the Savior.
I progressed into a friendly but somewhat jaded young man that only lived to serve himself. Christmas became an event to just “get through” rather than a time to honor the birth of the Savior. I didn’t really care about family gatherings, giving or receiving gifts, or anything else to do with Jesus or Christmas. I was truly miserable at Christmas time but didn’t seem to know why.
Then I met a young woman that truly loved Christmas. Her name was Ann and she loved Jesus too. Ann and I dated off and on for about 18 months before I was captured by the Savior. For the next six months I grew by leaps and bounds as the Holy Spirit began to break down my walls and prepare me for his service. Ann and I were married in August of 1970. I gave her a fur coat with a leather collar for our first “married” Christmas. A picture of her wearing it still gleams in our living room 44 years later.
Today, Christmas is fun. The family, friends, delightful Christmas goodies, gifts, carols, pageants and even Santa are still all part of the Christmas scenario but Jesus is now central to Christmas. Actually, Jesus is Christmas.
Thank you King Jesus for taking human form, dying on the cross, rising from the dead, securing our salvation and filling us with the Holy Spirit. I will worship you on Christmas day and every day.