Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

When Santa Lived with Us

Christmas 2008 Santa Claus came to our house for dinner. He stayed for two weeks. This is the second half of this true story. You probably want to read the first half before continuing.

copyright Creative Commons

copyright Creative Commons

Santa moved in

During dinner with Santa, we discovered that he was planning to stay in our area for a while after Christmas. He wanted to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity somewhere in the southeast. (I imagined him in a big red suit swinging a hammer) We offered for him to stay in the guest room in our basement until he sorted out his plans.

Santa moved in.

A day later, we were in the grocery store with the kids. The cashier started ringing up our bill and smiled at our daughter Izzy, who was two-and-a-half at the time.

“Did Santa come and visit you this Christmas?”

“Yes,” she replied with a big grin, “and he is still in our basement.”

Missional Santa

The first week Santa lived with us, I was emcee for a conference for 700 or so college students not far from our house. One theme of our conference was “living life on a mission.” So many young people float through life without a plan or a purpose. They aren’t on a mission.

During the planning, I realized that Santa—our Santa living in our basement—was the perfect example of someone living “on mission.” He was Missional Santa. He had found a way to give hope and life to others by putting on a black boots and a red suit. I asked him to drop by.

I told the students the story of meeting Santa in the mall, discovering the motivation behind his work, and mission with which he lives his life. Then, I asked them to welcome Missional Santa.

He came out from behind the curtain, stage lights sparkling off his white fur and red velvet, cheer radiating from his face. The plan was for him to distribute a free DVD (Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce, another man on a mission) and then leave the auditorium, but the students went wild. We temporarily wrecked our meeting. Those 18-22 year-olds instantly became 5-8 year olds. No other speaker or band received the reception that Santa did that night.  Students were taking picture with Santa, hugging Santa, giving Santa high fives. It was pandemonium.

After the meeting, he stayed for three or four more hours talking with students and listening to their stories.

Our roommate, Santa Claus

Santa stayed in our basement for two weeks in all. He cooked us dinner. Without us knowing, he scrubbed the stains out of our carpet. He served us in any way he could.

One afternoon we heard a deep voice from the kitchen saying, “Delicious and somewhat nutritious,” over and over again.  We were curious to discover what was going on. Elijah was in his high chair and Santa was spooning ice-cream into his gaping mouth. “Delicious and somewhat nutritious.”

However, all good/strange things must come to end. In mid-January he headed south to manage a construction project with Habitat (HFH) in a low-income neighborhood. I still hear from him from time to time.  The last I heard, he was still volunteering with HFH and sitting in a big golden chair at the mall during the Christmas season. He told me had met a nice woman and was taking it slow.

If you asked my kids if they believe in Santa Claus, they will look up at you with a scrunched brow and say, “Of course, he used to live with us.”

St. Nicholas’ Christmas

It’s ironic that my Dad was afraid that believing in Santa Claus would distract me from believing in God.

After meeting Santa, I believe in God even more—a God who cares enough about an exhausted housewife to send a fat man in red to pray for her; a God who meets a mourning widower in the middle of the night to give him peace; a God who takes broken people and sends them on a mission of hope and life.

Thank you Santa for that reminder.

During this Christmas season I remember the one St. Nicholas knew— Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God—and his birth 2000 years ago.

Merry Christmas to you all!

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