Love in Santa garb


Seems to me the holiday season was different this year. Or might it be that my perspective has changed?

I’m growing curmudgeonly on a number of concerns these days, and I plan to sweep the deck clear of them every few weeks.

Didn’t you think we saw more than the usual Christmas arguments about whether or not Santa Claus is real? By chance or intention, the debate raged from a whisper to an avalanche.

And guess what? The most authentic Santa sighting of the season, and I wasn’t there.

So. A brief expression of appreciation nonetheless.

Those who know about these things announced that the crime rate has fallen a bit. To substantiate their headline grabbers, another study observed that tattoos have gone mainstream. Apparently better use of sterilization has reduced the risk of infection and parents are more likely to acquiesce than ever before. That is, if asked.

I’m proud to announce that I plan to continue waging war against verbal misuse of our beloved English. I like to think I’ve contributed to its protection and not to its destruction.

Like “No problem” used in place of “Thank you” by restaurant servers and such. Took a couple of days before I perked up and said, Guess what? I haven’t heard “No problem” for days now, and I’ve got all the way to the fourth day after Christmas with no “No problem.”

Do you think we could take the same leap of faith and pronounce Last Rites on the scurrilous transmogrifying of nouns into verbs? Today my irritation has spread to one of the more appearances in speech and print: “Gift.” One “gives a gift” to a loved one, for Pete’s sake; one does not “gift” people.

All right, more of the good stuff. For years I had looked down my nose on those who sang Christmas songs before Christmas Day. Those are Christmas carols, NOT Advent carols, I used to snip.

This time the church got it right. What a joy to listen to the words and music of expectation, then the Christmas message of praise and gratitude.
Here’s another antidote to malcontent. A friend called to tell me he had chanced upon a moment of sweetness, when he met two women on the golf cart path. They had a thick ball of mistletoe, and broke it and offered it to every one they met.

I asked my friend if he knew that mistletoe is a parasite living in the highest branches of hardwoods, and traditionally harvested by snipers bearing .22 rifles? He said the moment was somehow lightened and he walked on home feeling warm and, well, lightened.

The biggest Christmas surprise happened a few weeks before Christmas Day, when Santa Claus took a moment to appear in person to the Book Club of Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran Church.

Book Club president Leslie Klein tells what happened:

The Book Club has been meeting for 12 years every month, in the church library. Each December, we meet for a dessert party and read a holiday book. The selection this year was Thursday morning (the day we were meeting) I contacted Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (FODAC) in Stone Mountain, the organization started by Mr. Burchart, to get an update for my introduction. I was put through to “Santa” and he was so delighted we were reading his book.

He asked what time we were meeting, and before I knew it he and Mrs. Claus were coming to Peachtree City to join the group. Needless to say, everyone was stunned when he arrived. All agreed it was the most wonderful evening. He and Mrs. Claus related such dear, heart-warming stories.

He was the Macy’s Santa in downtown Atlanta before it closed and has been the Santa for the Stone Mountain Christmas for 20 years. He is also an ordained minister. His first Mrs. Claus passed away on Christmas Day in 2004.

Santa signed our books and we sent him home with a donation to FODAC and a plate of cookies.

From editorial reviews on the Amazon Website:

With a flowing beard of white, rosy cheeks, jolly laugh, and generous spirit, Ed Butchart is Santa even without the red suit. This professional Santa has won hearts across the country, partly because of his day job.

When not listening to children whisper secrets and wishes into his ear, Santa fixes and provides medical equipment for disabled people in need around the world. It all started more than 20 years ago when he changed the light bulb for a friend with cerebral palsy.

Humbled by the huge difference a small act of goodness can cause, Butchart has since helped more than 50,000 disabled people and touched the lives of more than 500,000 adults and children who have placed their Christmas requests with him.

Woven throughout The Red Suit Diaries is a faith and a love of giving that energizes Butchart’s mission to spread joy to children of all ages in the name of Christ. No wonder even the most skeptical say, “I believe.”

Butchart, an official Santa in Atlanta, runs the year-round workshop and ministry Friends of Disabled Adults and Children. As president and founder, he’s helped change the lives of tens of thousands of disabled people by refurbishing wheelchairs and medical equipment. Butchart’s professional Santa Claus career spans 13 years.

Tom Brokaw said it best about the author: This Santa “can only be described as the real thing.”

With warmth, humor, and wonder, Ed Butchart shares his stories as a professional Santa Claus in The Red Suit Diaries. Deftly combining his Santa persona with his passion for God, Butchart reveals himself as a once-hardened Marine who found Jesus and began to serve others in unusual ways.

No Santa Claus?