A CHILD IS BORN…AND HOPE
2005 by Jim Robinson
This morning, my wife and
I attended our son’s first grade “Holiday Show.” Because he
attends a public school, the play couldn’t be called a
Christmas Show. It wouldn’t be politically correct.
Fortunately, our school is full of wonderful people who are
able to allow the celebration of other cultural belief
systems, yet refuse to be intimidated by those who take
particular aim at Christian traditions. And though the play
was ostensibly about a warm-hearted snowman, the dwarves,
elves, and assorted winter creatures finished with a bright
musical medley that included “We Wish You a Merry
Christmas.” Hey, at least they used the word CHRISTmas.
I needed this. My spirit had been a
bit heavy the past few days. Because something happened to my
daughter recently, and so it happened to me, too. Her heart was
broken. Our hearts were broken.
The Cold, Hard Truth
Three days ago, my daughter was told
by several friends that there was no Santa Claus. These
ten-year-olds apparently mentioned it in a very sophisticated,
aloof sort of way, as if discussing the latest political
climate. Mary Ruth felt her insides being crushed. But she went
She pretended to be all right. But
her mother and I knew from the moment she walked in the door
after school that something was wrong. Bright but serious, Mary
Ruth has always reminded me of myself as a child. Arrows that
seemingly bounce off the emotional armor of others her age
somehow find their way straight into her heart. Her intellect
still outdistances her emotional development, and she seems to
struggle with an internal tension that feels all too familiar to
me, to the child still within me. My first child, my only
daughter—we are, she and I, reluctant to relinquish our passion
for imagination. We are close in ways of both mind and spirit.
I worry about her, of course.
Because unwise as it may be, I unavoidably project my own past
story into her future one, into her journey barely begun. And I
sense her longing. I worry about what she might do as her life
unfolds, the people and places and things she might seek as a
way to fill the spiritual hungering with which she was born. I
pray that she will avoid some of the emptiness with which I
tried to fill my soul. Because of her unique gifts, her
potential for Kingdom service is great. But the gifts also make
In our home, we have always tried to
teach truth, without prematurely robbing our children of their
God-given, childlike essence of wonder. Santa Claus is
larger than real life—joy, giving, fantasy…all dressed up in
red, white, and bells, blindingly beautiful, like some
heart-stopping gift. Through him, we have tried to teach
our children that in this often unfeeling, faithless world there
does indeed exist a wondrous thing called Love—a thing
greater than all the darkness, all the pain, all the
universalism and fear and shame and hatred and ugliness. And in
this teaching through a fantastical, stronger-than-reality
story, the greater truth within always begins and ends with
Jesus. This is what Santa comes to remind us of, we tell them.
Giving. Sharing. Jaw-dropping, eye-popping, shimmering
chill-bumping proof—there is more to life than the life
we see around us. More to this existence than what we see, hear,
feel, taste. We walk through this sometimes cold and weary
world, but we need never succumb to it. Because long ago, in a
place far away, something wonderful happened.
And so, when my daughter finally
fell into my arms, the hurt overflowing, I hurt, too. And
somehow this hurt hit deeper, into a place that has little to do
with the mythology of Santa. She and I held one another, and
cried. We cried for a world grown steadily more cynical and
cold. A world where even ten-year-olds have access to
information meant only for grownups, a place where intellect has
replaced imagination. Together, my daughter, her mother and I
mourned lost innocence and dreams.
We died a bit, I think, somewhere
deep inside. Not because my child was shocked by the news; her
mind had struggled with the unlikely physical reality of a fat
man in a furry suit coming down our chimney. No, this loss went
far deeper. In a way only children can fully understand, we
mourned a loss of faith. I felt helpless to help her, or myself.
And then, I did something perhaps
very un-parent like. I realized in my sorrow that Love is not a
thing easily murdered. And out of nowhere, from a place deep
within, I said:
“We can choose to believe.”
She looked at me, a brief pause in
her pain. An odd, powerfully simple thought. Something that felt
like hope gracefully glowed between us, fleetingly.
“We can choose to hear the bell,” I
said, referring to the one from Santa’s very own sleigh, in the
book The Polar Express. A bell that rings for those who
remain young at heart, but slowly fades into silence for those
who make the mistake of growing up.
“Listen,” I said. “We can choose to
Hard To Believe
Scripture defines faith as “the
substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
(Hebrews 11:1) Yes. Things unseen. Safety, in the midst of
danger. Peace, inexplicably present in a world filled with
chaos. Darkness, suddenly overwhelmed by a Light.
Ultimately, I understood in a most
painful way what my daughter was feeling. Her mind could handle
not believing. But her heart could not. Her indomitable inner
child was desperately clinging to a precious thing, a timeless,
untouchable, very Godly thing. She needed to
believe. And so do I. So do I.
The story is familiar, of course,
but the scoffing seems to have grown louder, the images more
caricatured. How foolish it all sounds now, here in our
“enlightened” age. The stable, the wise men, the young virgin.
How unlikely. How very childish.
We are told that the people had been
faithfully waiting, preparing for the arrival of their Messiah
in glory and splendor, a Kingly leader dressed in shining armor,
leading a vast army of warriors, perhaps. They waited. And they
And yet, their hopes were met with
nothing more and nothing less than the wails of a newborn child,
naked and helpless and shocked by the cold…a tiny voice echoing
off the lonely hills, startling more sheep than humans. Here, in
this dirty barn. Smack dab in the middle of nowhere.
But oh, oh how I want to believe.
Because in my believing I move past the mere elements of
storytelling, and into a place of wordless wonder. And in the
story there lives an unconquerable Truth that has survived
thousand of years, countless cultures, unrelenting attack. A
Truth that reason has attempted to rebuke and science dispel. A
Truth no amount of commercialization can defeat, no political
correctness quiet. An unreasonable thing, many would claim, a
fairy-tale handed down from generation to gullible generation.
Can you hear it? The rustling of
cows’ hooves shuffling in the straw, of sandaled feet upon wet
night grass. Muffled voices, awed, overcome by the silent night.
And beyond explanation, beyond something as limited and
ridiculous as mere reason, beyond time and space and anything
small enough for us to even halfway understand…beyond our broken
hearts… A child is born.
Something wonderful has happened.
Wonder-full. The coming of Hope, of Peace. The birth of
Innocence, a time in which exhausted arrogance can safely lay
down its ugly head and die, if we’ll only allow it. A child is
born. We are saved… from our self-sufficiency, our
loneliness, our disbelief. And, if we will only surrender to the
irrationality of it, perhaps all the philosophy and
psychoanalysis, ego and existentialism, longing and loneliness
and narcissistic nonsense…all of it can finally wash warm and
wondrously out of us, on tears of grace we needn’t bother wiping
away. At long last, we can close our world-weary eyes and
finally see with childlike grace that those who find themselves
lost—lost but not alone—are at long last nearing Home.
We are called to be in the world,
but not of it. Celebrate, followers of the man named Jesus! And
do so shamelessly, joyously. Gather ‘round the manger, and gaze
with wide-eyed wonder upon Him.