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Upholding the Faith and Order of the Church
Tuesday October 17th 2017

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Santa Doesn’t Come For Me

p3Years ago my wife and young children and I took a trip to Montreal in Canada, to visit our son’s Godfather, a priest, who had been the Rector of my “home parish” St. Mary’s Church in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. The priest had left Pittsburgh, and with a new graduate degree in Social Work, worked closely with the homeless in a difficult part of Montreal as part of a parish outreach ministry. Those who are hungry and homeless do not care very much about which Church or Denomination feeds them or finds a place for them to sleep. A great blessing for my family, and for me, is that our son’s Godfather did not have enough room in his small house, so we stayed at one of the Homeless Shelters during our stay in Montreal.

As one might expect, the furnishings were very spartan, and the food was very basic French Canadian. The lay couple who maintained the Shelter – he an Englishman and she a French Canadian – lived a very simple life. Indeed, when I celebrated Mass in the chapel, maintained by the Roman Catholic Church, it was the simplest and most basic chapel I had ever seen. Certainly each day the population would change, and every day was a new day to meet new people.

The couple told us that they had been childless, and one day a small child was left on their door step. They took her in, loved her, and adopted her. The couple couldn’t wait until Christmas so that they could share their love for Jesus and the joy of Christmas celebrations. They quietly bought humble presents with their meager income, and wrapped them for their little girl. They told her stories about the first Christmas, and then told her about the exciting arrival of Pere Noel who would come on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Day the excited couple awakened early and waited for their daughter to come running down the steps. They had replayed the scene in their minds for months, and they waited. They listened and heard their young daughter humming very softly in her room, and they ascended the steps of the shelter, to see if their daughter was alright. They shouted, “It’s Christmas (Pere Noel) Santa Claus has come.” The daughter smiled and did not move, continuing to hum a Christmas carol. Finally the couple couldn’t wait any longer and once again they said, “Santa has come!” The little girl turned to them and with a sweet smile said. “I know, Mommy and Daddy, but Santa doesn’t come for me.”

I suspect that most of us have an opinion about the commercialization of Christmas. We see Christmas movies where no one ever talks about going to church, and we hear phrases such as “we aren’t doing Christmas this year,” or “I don’t do Christmas anymore.” What do they mean? Do they mean that no Christ Mass will be celebrated this year? Do they mean that December 25 will be removed from the Calendar. Of course not. They often mean that the wonderful (and sometimes odd) festivities surrounding a period of time in November and December will not occur.

Indeed, for them, perhaps, Santa isn’t coming this year. For many homeless and hungry people, Christmas is a depressing thought, and, like Thanksgiving, is often the only time when people think about them. Still Jesus’ birthday will be celebrated, but if we brought someone into our homes and shared Christmas movies with them, would they know whose birthday it was?

Perhaps for those who set up for “Christmas” festivities, for those who call themselves Christians, it is a good time to look at our homes and ask the question, “If someone who had never heard of Jesus were to walk into my house would they determine quickly what the significance of this Season is?” Would they find Jesus?

I still think about that little girl in Montreal, and wonder what she taught her children. Once she figured that Santa does come for her, did she remember seeing the love of Jesus shining through her parents? Their love for her was overwhelming, but their love for Jesus was even greater. For after they shared their small gifts with their daughter, they led her into a large room where a large group of people waited… ready to receive their gifts… gifts that would not be discarded, but the gifts of knowing that they could and were loved and valued. They celebrated Christmas.
Bishop Keith Ackerman is the retired Bishop of Quincy and FiFNA’s Ambassador for Anglican and Ecumenical Affairs.

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