One time I was at a church Christmas party where a pregnant woman was dressed as Santa. Today, I would find that hilarious, but back then, I had a problem. I had no sense of humor.
I was a new Christian and apparently, Jesus removed my funny bone when He took away my sins. I didn't think I could laugh at the situation because I didn't believe Santa had a place at a church Christmas party. And I didn't think anyone else who called themselves Christian should allow such things. So I went to the party and spent my time being very serious.
I sighed. A lot.
Somehow in my Grinch equation I never considered the kids who would be at this party, very much looking forward to a particular pregnant bearded visitor. One of those kids was pregnant Santa's daughter. She was five and adorable. And SO excited to have her mom as Santa.
She says to me with great lisping pride, "Mith Donna -- I'm. An elf." She wanted me to be impressed. I was determined to stay prudishly true to the Reason for the Season. "That's nice," I said with a fake smile and turned back to my grown-up friends for more deep conversation.
Maybe I didn't hear her, she thinks, because she taps me again. "Mith Donna -- I'm...an...ELLLF," enunciating for me, and raising her eyebrows toward her mom, to help me see the Santa-mom/elf-daughter connection. "Right," I said, unimpressed.
She would not be contained.
With all the excitement and innocence of a certain movie elf who would not be created for another couple decades, she spells it out for me, "Mith Donnnna! I. Am. An. Elllllf!" This is the biggest news of her little life and she's trying to share it with me, but all I want to communicate is that she should not be excited about this.
So I trap the fake elf in her own delusion: "Oh yeah?"
[pause for effect]
"Can you make me a toy?"
I see her mental wheels churning behind hopeful blue eyes. She's thinking, "If I say no, then I'm not an elf.....but how.....can I.....say.....yes?...............AHA!"
"Yeth," she says finally, with pixie gravitas. "Yeth, but it'll have to be invithible."
Finally, I laughed. Finally, this kid kicks through my theology about Christmas, and helps me actually live Christmas. I loosened up. Enjoyed the rest of the party. But it would be a few more years before I could quit being a preachy myopic grouch.
I'm thinking about this because recently I was on the receiving end of the same snippy coldness. Makes makes me wonder what I could do to let others know they don't have to live in the crushing bah humbug of always needing to be correct (it's exhausting. And it's never, ever loving). What would have un-grumped me back then? What did reach me? And when? How did I finally get over myself?
Assuming I did. Maybe I didn't. But maybe I suffered enough to grow a sprout of empathy. Lived long enough to see loveless theology do its judgmental worst. All I know is -- the older I get, the less I truly care about.
I do care about that lil pixie. She's all grown up now, married, with two kids.
And I bet she is a really good Santa.