Southern Hills Church of Christ
September 21, 1897
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon, 115 West Ninety-Fifth Street.
Thus begins the most well known editorial ever written in a newspaper. Most editorials are tossed out with the trash or end up at the bottom of a birdcage. Some of them may be stashed away for future reference, but are often lost and forgotten as generations pass. However, this one, written by Francis P. Church, over 100 years ago is read over and over every single year.
There’s at least one movie about it, and thousands of printings can be found folded in books, tucked away in drawers or neatly preserved and brought out every year in sermons or parties or blogs like this one. Search the Internet, and you’ll find page after page of references to it with all sorts of stories behind the story, some true, some fictional, but all based on this one little letter by an 8–year–old girl.
In their innocence and purity, children have the uncanny ability to make adults stop and think about things they have ignored, taken for granted or about which they just outright hadn’t given too much thought. How does a lightning bug make light? Where do the stars go in the daytime? Where do babies come from? Instead of letting people die and having to make new ones, why doesn’t God just keep the old ones? In Bible times did they really talk like that? I was at a wedding, and they kissed. Is it okay to kiss in church?
At what age do we stop believing? At what age do we quit asking questions? At what age do we just become apathetic to the world in which we live? When did church become boring instead of a chance to talk about God? When did Christmas become a chore instead of a time to which we looked forward with eager expectations? When did life become more mundane and less of an adventure?
“You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”
Jesus told us unless we become like little children we will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3). Humility, purity, innocence, goodness and seeking to learn are but a few of the traits that are a part of each and every one of us at birth before the world starts to take hold. It is only when we begin to look at the world through the eyes of a child that we can truly see what it looks like.
Christmas is a time to think about what life is all about. It’s a time to focus on a baby born thousands of years ago in a purity that would never be tainted by the ways of the world and man. It’s a time to gather again those things we lost from within our hearts. It’s a time to start believing again.
“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in rags and lying in a manger.”