“Unless you are converted and become as little children,
you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven”
(Matthew 18:3, NKJV).

My husband and I broke away for a quick trip to the mall a few days ago, and it was every bit as crowded and hectic as we’d expected. We were cruising the second floor when we spotted an empty bench and decided to rest for a few minutes.
No sooner had we settled ourselves in than we glanced down from our lofty perch and realized we were positioned just above the Santa line. Children and parents waited expectantly (some patiently, most not so much) for their chance to talk with the jolly old man. Though I prefer to use this season to focus on the celebration of Christ’s birth, rather than the giving and receiving of material gifts, I learned a lot during our observation of this event.
Babies were predictable. Anxious parents would lovingly place their little ones in Santa’s arms and then hope and pray for a decent photo while the baby screamed for rescue. The older children seemed reluctant or even embarrassed at visiting Santa and posing for a picture, but they made sure to present their wish list and take advantage of the bowl of candy canes on the nearby table. But it was the little ones who were old enough not to be frightened by the white-bearded stranger yet still young enough to believe what they’d heard about this benevolent gift-giver that touched us the most.
One little girl, who couldn’t have been more than three or four, approached Santa’s “throne” in seeming awe, her eyes wide as he pulled her up on his lap. We couldn’t hear what was said, but we assumed he asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Rather than answer, she impulsively threw her arms around his neck and clung to him. Santa appeared pleasantly surprised. When she finally drew back, he spoke to her again, and again she responded with a hug. When he put her down and she started to walk away so the next child could have a chance, she suddenly stopped and turned back, then ran to him and threw her arms around him one more time. Santa’s “ho ho ho” was the most joyous I’ve ever heard!
I couldn’t help but compare what I saw to our own approach to God. Before we have personal knowledge of who He is, we are terrified of His presence and want to escape, just as those babies did with Santa. When we’re older and have known him for some time, to the point that coming into His presence no longer strikes awe into our hearts, we are in danger of approaching Him only to present Him with our wish list, as if He Himself were our own personal Santa. How I pray that as we use this Christmas season to reflect on the greatest Gift ever given we will be like that little girl, coming into God’s presence, humbly and wide-eyed, wanting nothing more than to sit on His lap and throw our arms around Him in love and gratitude.
Shalom and Merry Christmas, dear ones!