I met Santa Claus just a short time ago. I wasn’t expecting to meet him. As it turns out, he is a whole lot younger than I expected. He didn’t have a long white beard or white hair. He didn’t have a big belly that rolled like jelly when he laughed. Come to think of it, I don’t remember him laughing. He seemed very serious when I met him. He was very much a “man” on a mission and a very important one at that…and I can certainly respect that!
I met Santa Claus just a short time ago. I didn’t have to go to the North Pole or the shopping mall. I didn’t have to wait for him to come down my chimney either. He came to me. I was in the back of Asbury South Sanctuary as the service was beginning. James had just begun the liturgy when the ushers, Jim and Kathy Neace, came to get me. It seemed there was a very important person who deserved my attention. I had to look down to see him. Conor is only 5 but to me, he is one of my heroes and certainly played the part of Santa this year.
How would a Kindergartner be Santa? Conor and his family attend here at Asbury Church and they are regular participants in our services and programs. For the last few weeks, we have talked about how Christmas isn’t our birthday but Jesus’ birthday. We even call it “Christmas Is Not Your Birthday,” or CINYB for short. CINYB is a program where we collect money for mission and ministry in Jesus’ name. Jesus told us in Matthew 25 that when we provide for the needs of the “least of these,” then we’ve provided for him. We support many things but the biggest are Sous Raille, Haiti, Rise Against Hunger and Lynn Road Elementary School. Our goal this year is $76,000 and we were at 81% of that goal as of December 27. CINYB is designed to keep Christ very much the central part of Christmas. We encourage everyone to give God a gift at Christmas. What if we had a birthday party and everyone got a gift but us? I’m sure that would seem very odd to us, maybe even hurtful or disrespectful. Yet every year at Christmas, we buy lots of gifts for lots of people with very few being for the one whose birthday we celebrate.
Conor may not be old, or “gravitationally challenged,” or have a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Conor did succeed in giving Jesus a very big gift. Conor brought his life’s savings to church and, after children’s ministry, he was ready to make his donation to CINYB. His parents asked him many times if he was sure. I asked him too, as he pulled dollar by dollar, penny by penny from his life’s savings “piggy bank” shaped like a hollow Lego block. He was sure and nothing was going to stop him from being Santa Claus. He helped end hunger near and far. He helped provide an education for children near and far. While his gift to Jesus may not be the biggest monetary gift we received this year, I think it may be the biggest gift by far, not unlike the “widow’s mite” as recorded by Luke (Luke 21:1-4). I was touched. An usher cried. We were all inspired.
Have you met Santa Claus this year? Have you been Santa Claus? There is still time. Christmas is not a day but a season that begins at Sundown on Christmas Eve and runs until the Epiphany on January 6. You don’t have to give your life’s savings. God doesn’t expect or demand such a sacrifice from us. I know I want to give a gift to Jesus as a way of showing just how appreciative I am for all that God has done for me. What gift might you give to honor Jesus?
Tom Newman, Pastor