In 1897, an eight-year old New Yorker wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Sun.

The writer was a girl named Virginia O’Hanlon from the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She wrote to the editor, because her father had always told her that the newspaper prints the truth, i.e., “Papa says if you see it in The Sun, it’s so.”

She was having trouble with her friends who told her that “there is no Santa Claus”. She was looking for the answer to a question that has puzzled us all at some time: Is there really a Santa Claus?

When we look at our world, can there really be a Merry Christmas? Can we find our Santa Claus with a sack of good things for us? Can we really behold and embrace the holy nature of the reason for this season? Can we find things that can help us with these questions?

Recently, Santa Claus visited Hidalgo Park Elementary School in Pharr, Texas.

Let us look at our world today. Hijacks, terrorism-flavored Christmas markets, bombs and murders and hate-filled crowds. Cherished, historic and holy places in the land trod by Jesus, his disciples, and apostles destroyed. Some by natural causes, such as earthquakes, and others by bombs and ravaging hate.

When the wrong people are fellow travelers, taking a trip on a ship or a plane or a bus or train could be your last. Thousands of refugees trudging long miles to escape from persecution and want. While there are new discoveries in science and space and industries. New lives are being born and saved. Thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square hold candles and are praying. In many countries groups make Novenas and Posadas with their families and friends honoring the Christ Child.

Let us look at our country. Insecure borders and insecure people. Rules of law and a righteous framework for order, with guaranteed rights and freedoms shaped by, and bled for, by our ancestors. A promised land for many who wanted free lives and lives blessed by God. A beacon to the homeless and tempest-tossed of the world, we are now experiencing internal homelessness and tempest-tossed lives. We seek the truth. We seek to believe that we can find and hold “the truth”.  We wish to be governed by ourselves—The People—by those that we have elected to lead our country.

We want to believe in our government and its precepts. We want it known to the world that those whom we allow to lead know that they are not anointed, but merely hold their positions at our calling. Our country is challenged, but holding hope. Joining voices in neighborhood concerts and recitals, lilting voices sing familiar carols to assembled families and friends. Lighted parades and Posadas and church celebrations comfort and bless. People gather and hope surrounds.

Let us look at our region. A microcosm of our state, our people exhibit the population of our future Texas. Linked to many countries by our location and our industries, our needs and issues are more global than other parts of the state, and inextricably interwoven with our neighboring country. Grappling with poverty and uncertainty, we are being challenged by people fleeing their native countries—some coming with pure hearts, others with a wish to destroy. Our Lady of Guadalupe shares her heart with this region and wishes that the region would share their hearts with her and her Son. She grieves that the reason for this season has become blurred and misaligned. She wishes joy and warmth and faith to permeate our feelings.

Let us look at Santa Claus. His role model was St. Nicholas, a real person born in 280 in Patara, part of present day Turkey. He was a bishop of Myrra, and gave generously to the poor. He was observant, gave secretly, expected nothing for himself. Many stories were told of his generosity. In many countries, there are practices of such giving, but his other self, a jolly elf, is Santa Claus.

A creature of a creative pen, Santa Claus came to America from Holland. His current demeanor has evolved a bit from the colonial days. He wears red and fur like St. Nicholas, and is known to be very observant-–knows who is naughty and nice– is generous and very secretive. For many reasons, but especially the hope and joy he promises, Santa Claus has burrowed into our hearts, minds and memories. His familiar demeanor catalyzes good feelings and happiness and a sense of generosity when connected with the real reason for the season. As a generous gift-giver, Santa Claus has become a righteous messenger of goodness—in support of, but not in place of, the Special Gift given to the world.

And, a rarity, Christmas and Hanukkah fall on the same day. This means that millions of people of both faiths will be lighting candles together across the world. Darkness has been deep this year. We are lighting lights to banish the darkness. It is time.

Based on our childhood memories, we hope for lights and laughter. We sometimes wish we could be children again, experiencing our childish fantasies. If we are married, we hope to experience warm feelings and remembered joy from shared holidays with our spouse. If we have children and grandchildren, we look forward to seeing their happy faces as they open their presents and sit with them around a holiday table—if we’re lucky enough to have them with us. With grandparents and siblings, once again, if we are lucky enough to have them with us. With friends, in case our families are not near us.

At these times, we pray that good feelings of nostalgia top our times together like whipped cream on our pie. We ask that bad or sad moments from the past stay off the stage of our hearts, featuring harmony, gratitude and comfort in their stead. We seek reassurance of the promises made to us during this Season–the Greatest Gift we’ll ever receive.

You don’t have to be a child to grapple with the question of Santa Claus, which really pertains to believing in the existence of truth, happiness, and goodness in our lives. Santa Claus is a symbol for love, generosity, and wishes fulfilled. There is always a place in our hearts for love, if we have faith, and allow it to be felt.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HANUKKAH, AND HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story, of Santa Claus, is provided by BackgroundPictures.org