Just a week before Christmas, I had a visitor. This is how it happened. I had just finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed when I heard a noise in the front of the house. I opened the door of the front room, and to my surprise, Santa Claus himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree. He placed his fingers over his mouth so I would not cry out.
"What are you doin..." I started to ask but the words choked in my throat as I saw he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone. Gone was the eager, boisterous soul we all know.
He then answered me with a simple statement of "Teach the children." I was puzzled. What did he mean? He anticipated my question and with one quick movement brought forth a miniature toy bag fr0m behind the tree. As I stood there bewildered, Santa said again, "Teach the children. Teach them the old meaning of Christmas; the meaning that Christmas now has forgotten."
I started to say, "How can I..." when Santa reached into the toy bag and pulled out a brilliant shiny star.
"Teach the children the star was the heavenly sign of promise long ages ago. God promised a savior for the world and the star was a sign of the fulfillment of that promise. The countless shining stars at night, one for each man, now show the burning hope of all mankind." Santa gently laid the star upon the fireplace mantle and drew forth from the bag a glittering red Christmas tree ornament.
"Teach the children red is the first color of Christmas. It was first used by the faithful people to remind them of the blood which was shed for all the people by the Savior. Christ gave His life and shed His blood that every man might have God's gift of Eternal Life. Red is deep, intense, vivid. It is the greatest color of all. It is the symbol of the gift of God."
"Teach the children," he said as he dislodged a small Christmas tree from the depths of the toy bag. He placed it before the mantle and gently hung the red ornament. Here was the second color of christmas.
"The pure green color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round," he said. "This depicts the everlasting hope of mankind. Green is the youthful, hopeful, abundant color of nature. All the needles point heavenward-symbols of Man's returning thoughts toward heaven. The great green tree has been man's best friend. It has sheltered him, warmed him, made beauty for him." Suddenly I heard a soft tinkling sound.
"Teach the children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of the bell, it should ring for man to return to the fold. It means guidance and return. It further signifies that all are precious in the eyes of the Lord. As the soft sound of the bell faded into the night, Santa drew forth a candle. He placed it on the mantle and the soft glow from its tiny flame cast a glow about the darkened room. Odd shapes in shadows slowly danced and weaved upon the walls.
"Teach the children," whispered Santa, "that the candle shows man's thanks for the star of long ago. Its small light is the mirror of starlight. At first candles were placed on the trees. They were like many glowing stars shining against the dark green. The colored lights have now taken over in remembrance."
Santa turned the small Christmas tree lights on and picked up a gift from under the tree. He pointed to the large bow and said, "A bow is placed on a present to remind us of the spirit of the brotherhood of man. We should remember that the bow is tied as men should be tied, all of us together, with bonds of good will toward each other. Good will forever is the message of the bow."
Santa slung his bag over his shoulder and began to reach for the candy cane placed high on the tree. He unfastened it and reached out toward me with it.
"Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherd's crook. The crook on the staff helps bring back the strayed sheep to the flock. The candy cane represents the helping hand we should show at Christmas time. The candy cane is the symbol that we are our brother's keepers."
As Santa looked about the room, a feeling of satisfaction shone on his face. He read wonderment in my eyes, and I am sure he sensed my admiration for this night.
He reached into his bag and brought forth a large holly wreath. He placed it on the door and said, "Please teach the children the wreath symbolizes the eternal nature of love; it never ceases, stops, or ends. It is one continuous round of affection. The wreath does double duty. It is made of many things and in many colors. It should remind us of all the things of Christmas. Please teach the children."
I pondered and wondered and thrilled with delight,
As I sat and viewed all those symbols that night.
I dozed as I sat in the soft candle light,
And my thoughts were of Santa and all he made right.
To give and to help, to love and to serve,
Are the best things of life, all man can deserve.
Old Santa Claus, that jolly fat elf,
Is the very best symbol of Christmas itself.
He's the sign of the gift of love and of life,
The ending of evil, the ceasing of strife.
His message to me on that pre-Christmas night,
Has opened a treasure of deepest insight.
The one thing on earth we all ought to do,
Is teach all the children the right and the true.