A daughter’s first Christmas inspires the question we should all be asking.
by LISA HARPER
I BOUGHT THREE Christmas stockings with my daughter’s name monogrammed on them a full year before I got to bring her home from Haiti — our adoption journey took two long years. Therefore, to say I was excited about the first Advent season we got to experience together is an epic understatement. At the ripe old age — ahem, excuse me, I meant mature age — of 51, God redeemed my story and allowed me to become a mom, and I was pretty much beside myself with gratitude and joy!
Everything Missy and I experienced our first Christmas together felt like a glorious, God-authored miracle: the first night we drove around listening to carols and admiring the twinkling lights of houses tucked in the Tennessee hills near our home; the first time we made a total mess in the kitchen while decorating sugar cookies shaped like snowmen; and the first time I let her choose all the gaudy wrapping paper and neon bows her precious 5-year-old self fancied. The first time I turned on the lights illuminating the tree in our living room — the first Christmas tree she’d ever seen — she literally gasped with delight. But ironically, the sweetest first of that inaugural mama-daughter Christmas season was when she met Santa.
Of course, I’d been warned by other tight-lipped parents about introducing her to the big, fat spoiler of King Jesus’ birthday. How I should explain the jolly guy’s chicanery to my unexposed-to-a-first-world-commercialized-Christmas daughter from the get go, thereby saving her from a childhood marred by the whole North Pole hoax. Call me crazy, but I didn’t think trying to explain to my little girl — who had a very limited comprehension of English at the time — that Santa was a complete ruse, in which most adults were complicit, was the best route to take that first year. So instead, I told her the pudgy man clad in red velvet — whom she kept pointing out around town while asking, “Is it, Mama?” (which was her darling way of asking what is that or who is that her first few months in America, when Creole was the only language she spoke fluently) — was just a human friend of Jesus who helped pass out the presents on Christ’s birthday because he drove a good hauling vehicle called a sleigh.
Which is why when she sat in Santa’s lap for her first Christmas portrait (I mean, come on, how could I NOT have at least one picture of my daughter with the jolly, albeit fake, dude?), she eyed him suspiciously for a few seconds and then asked, “Do you know Jebus?” At which point, the poor geriatric actor my baby girl was perched upon — who’d grown an actual white beard to better look the part — glanced over her head at me rather helplessly, and I was forced to whisper the confession that I’d thrown him under the bus and revealed his humble role as the deliverer of King Jesus’ presents, not actually the hero of Christmas.
Thankfully, our local Santa is a good-natured Christ-follower, because after hearing my confession, he grinned from ear to ear and ho-ho-hoed. Then he bellowed, “Well, yes, honey, I DO know Jebus!” to my quickly satisfied daughter, who to this day regards him as basically the captain of the Christmas delivery team.
I believe my kid’s boldly innocent query is the kindest question we can ask our family, friends, coworkers, other image-bearers, and possibly even ourselves this Advent season: Do you know Jesus? Do you know the One who descended to earth in a suit of skin? Who was born in a barn to a virgin mother? Who lived a perfect, sinless life and ultimately submitted Himself to an excruciating and humiliating death on a cross so that we could be reconciled with our Creator Redeemer? And if the answer is no, then I hope you’ll encourage them (or even yourself) to be like the wise men and seek Him. Because if you do, you’ll find Him. And only then will you get to truly experience the love, joy, and peace everyone’s singing about this time of year.
LISA HARPER is lauded as an engaging, hilarious communicator as well as an authentic and substantive Bible teacher. She has written 15 books (including her latest The Sacrament of Happy) and Bible study curriculums. Her greatest accomplishment is that of becoming Missy’s (her adopted daughter from Haiti) mama!
This article originally appeared in Mature Living magazine (December 2017). For more articles like this, subscribe to Mature Living.