You better not pout, you better not cry, better not pout I'm telling you why: Santa Claus is dead. OK, now that you're uncomfortable about this, please allow me to explain.
First, please don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to shock little children (who don't read newspaper columns like this anyway). I don't want to steal anyone's holiday cheer. And please don't waste your time calling or e-mailing me about how I am distorting the true meaning of Christmas. It's just that the lyrics of the classic song, "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" have taken on new significance over the past couple of years. Reality has set in, big time. Our National Kris Kringle is no more.
Consider this: Based on election results from across the country (with notable exceptions in New York and here in always-wacky California), it seems Americans have broken a long national addiction to Uncle Sam-in-a-Santa suit. More people have come to the realization that, despite keeping an eye on who's "naughty and nice," the jolly fella in his governmental form can't keep producing freebies forever. He's maxed his credit line.
Oh sure, for our "protection," security cams, tracking and scanning and TSA devices at the airport keep tabs on all of us (like Santa's musical image suggests), but the promises of an ongoing blizzard of "free" gifts from Washington, D.C. and Sacramento are over. When it comes to excess "benefits," the key word these days is "unsustainable."
Everyday citizens now know that government programs, pensions, prop-ups, stimulus and other assorted "gifts" have been charged to our credit cards… and to our kids, grandchildren… probably pets, too. It's all hit the fan.
The good thing is that Americans deeply understand what's going on, signaling that message loud and clear on Nov. 2. Now it's only selected politicians who still believe in jumping up onto Uncle Sam's lap (with a boost from union officials), begging for more and assuming there's an endless stream of entitlements to come, like an ongoing bureaucratic manna. Well, God can provide, but elected officials and appointees cannot. It was like we received the first gift of the season: Clarity and accountability. It gave us a sense of real hope that, Lord willing, we may be able to keep the nation from driving off a cliff in an overloaded sleigh.
A place for Santa
I'm not trying to take away from the joy of this time of year. I simply think it's a good thing that the nasty meltdowns and transitions of the past couple of years can lead to smarter decisions, brightening holiday seasons ahead.
One note about this whole Santa thing: I understand many fellow Christians have a problem with the story of the hefty guy in the red suit, big ol' beard and rosy cheeks, defying all healthy eating regulations at each stop (love that milk and cookies theme), dumping presents all over the world. The issue is that Santa can distract from the birth of Christ.
I suppose that's true, but there are all sorts of things that can obscure the true meaning of the season. It all boils down to what you make of it.
Growing up in a Midwestern, Swedish family, we had fun with Santa stories and elves ("Yule Toomptas" they were called). It was wonderful, with traditional memories made deeper by parents and grandparents who had plenty of family fun with the concept. But they always brought everything back to the Christ child. The Messiah, Savior of the world. There was no confusion.
Fantasy vs. biblical reality
We knew from the earliest age the difference between fantasy and biblical reality. Whimsical stories of holiday characters were always trumped by the Christmas story in the book of Luke, read out loud in a halting Swedish accent by my Grandfather ("Morfar" as he was called). It was made more meaningful when the scriptural account would often inspire stories of what that baby born in a manger did in the lives of our family members. Yes, that little child grew to adulthood and gave to ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. Powerful stuff, indeed.
In these days of chaos and transformation, it's a blessing that more of us have refocused on the basics. We now know that promises and bloated deficits from a National Santa are certainly not gifts without a cost. But that doesn't mean we must toss out celebrations that inspire us all to a happier, joyful time. There's also something refreshing about being in a position to remember that "downsizing" to life's simpler things is actually very satisfying.
Besides, God's sharing of his Son, without need for governmental votes and red-tape oversight, offering eternal life for all who truly believe… is the very best gift of all. Merry Christmas.
Larson is a veteran Southern California radio/television personality and media consultant. He can be heard daily in San Diego on KCBQ 1170AM from 6 to 9 a.m., and on KPRZ 1210AM from 2 to 4 p.m. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.