Faces on Faith: Childhood tales — the Reluctant Reindeer
I have two grandsons. They are now 8 and 12, but one Christmas, a few years back when they were 4 and 8, we had a Christmas that seemed very focused on reindeer.
Both of them had parts in a play that told the tale of a Christmas Eve when poor Rudolph got a cold and couldn’t guide Santa’s sleigh through the night. Christopher, the 4-year-old, originally was cast as Donner, but he was a very energetic little boy and he couldn’t stay in line so he got demoted to a nameless reindeer in a supporting role. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to do that. My son called him “the reluctant reindeer.”
Meanwhile, our older grandson, Zachary, was cast as the hero of the piece. Just in the nick of time (so to speak) Rudolph remembered an old friend of his who lived on a farm. Maybe he could substitute. So, Santa makes a phone call, and Zachary, dressed in coveralls, a John Deere cap and antlers, comes riding in on a toy pickup truck to save the day.
Meanwhile, in Orlando, my 4-year old granddaughter, Haley, and her mother were talking about leaving out milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve. Haley thought that was a good idea, but she didn’t like her mother’s other suggestion.
“Haley,” she asked, “do you want to leave out carrots for the reindeer?”
“No,” said Haley.
“Reindeer eat leaves, Mommy. Not carrots. Rabbits eat carrots. Reindeer and dinosaurs eat leaves.”
I may be a doddering old grandfather, but it made sense to me!
It is such a joy to be able to see Christmas through the eyes of children, isn’t it? Many folks have similar stories to share. No wonder so many people say Christmas is for children.
And why not? After all, the most important Christmas story, the original Christmas story, is all about a child, a child born in Bethlehem. As the story is retold, one can’t help but be reminded of the great joy little ones can bring into our lives.
We also must remember the circumstances of his birth. He lived in poverty, in an occupied land, under foreign dictatorship. He had to be placed in a manger, a feeding trough, because there was no room for his family in the inn. Like many children around the world, Jesus was born into less than ideal circumstances.
It is, of course, fine for us to enjoy the unique take children have on Christmas, it is fine to indulge them a bit. Who can help but be stirred by the images of childlike innocence that permeate this season.
But Christmas, if it is to mean anything, must mean far more. It must be, in the end, a time of recommitting ourselves to making this world a safer, better place for children. We can reach out to the children we know, and those we don’t. As volunteers, as advocates, as financial supporters, we can work in ways that will make their lives not just easier, but better.
My grandson may have been a reluctant reindeer, but when it comes to working for the future of children everywhere, we must move past any reluctance, and embrace a vision of peace on earth, goodwill for all – especially the children.