Intertwined with the garland and red bows adorning my Bigfork neighbor’s front door, a single word stares in my direction this Christmas season, all but beseeching me to contemplate its meaning:
Yes, Ted Lasso’s inspirational Believe sign, hung in the locker room to motivate his players and coaches, immediately comes to mind. See what television is doing to us?
Then there’s “the Santa Claus thing,” as described by Scott Calvin. “What if I choose not to believe it?” the recruited Kris Kringle inquires of Bernard the elf, as dead silence falls upon the North Pole workshop.
“Then there would be millions of disappointed children around the world. You see, children hold the spirit of Christmas within their hearts. You don’t wanna be responsible for killing the spirit of Christmas, now would you … Santa?”
Of course he wouldn’t. Consider the recent Ipsos poll revealing almost half of young Americans under 18 believe in Santa Claus. What intrigues me most about the survey, though, is the 21 percent of US adults who say they too believe in Mr. Claus.
“Do you know any adults who believe in Santa?” the knowledge-sharing platform Quora takes it one step further.
“I do! Because it’s me,” replies a believer named John. “Now before you offer to commit me to a home for questionable sanity, hear me out.
“At this stage in my life, Santa Claus isn’t a singular being that employs elves and makes toys … Santa is the U.S. Marine collecting toys for less fortunate children. The mother’s pantry program worker providing food to hungry families. Also the bell ringers and charity workers collecting money, clothing and other items for the poor and homeless. In short, Santa Claus is very much alive and well in the hearts, minds, and efforts of those who think of others and give freely without thought of reward.”
Even OpenAI’s chatbot, artificial intelligence’s transformative mouthpiece, explains that grownups believe in Santa “as a symbol of the spirit of giving and the magic of Christmas. Some may also believe in the idea of Santa as a representation of the generosity and kindness that can be found in people during the holiday season. It is not uncommon for adults to continue to find joy and wonder in the idea of Santa, even as they grow older.”
Certainly society can benefit from more kindness and generosity, but there’s obviously a much higher power and authority behind Believe signs that appear during this holiest of seasons – even if three quarters of Americans lament that people have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas.
Scriptures tell us the birth of the Christ Child came to pass that first Christmas Day, his nativity and ultimate ministry aligned with God’s will “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
“We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God,” the disciples proclaimed to Jesus (by the way, the word believe appears nearly 250 times in the New Testament).
So if it’s the can-do philosophy of an American football coach hired to inspire a struggling British soccer team (“I believe in belief,” Ted Lasso preached); the giving spirit and white magic of Santa Claus; or the peace, love and compassion instilled by the Son of God – who lest we forget is responsible for Christmas in the first place – choosing whether to believe in these or countless other intangibles are personal choices we constantly make throughout life.
Just remember, the bell only rings for those who believe.
John McCaslin is a longtime print and broadcast journalist and author.
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