By Pastor Stéphane Gagné
It’s that time of year again: Christmas. I have to say that this year was my 50th Christmas.
My memories of Christmas as a kid are pretty good. In fact, I’ve always had an uncanny memory of things that happened even when I was still a baby. It still amazes my parents when they put me to the test. I tend to believe that I was given a deep consciousness even as a toddler. Let me explain what I mean by that.
As a preschooler, I was pretty curious and couldn’t just look at things without wondering and pondering. Looking at nature, I would try to understand not only the “what” of it, but also the “why.” Of course most children love that “why” phase when they always ask their parents about everything, but I took their answers really seriously. More so than my parents did, sometimes.
To the question, “Why are there fish?” they would simply answer, “Because there’s a lake.” Then I’d reason: “water holes left by the rain are just little lakes, aren’t they? So there should be fish in there,” and I’d try to fish in the water holes with a rope tied to a stick. (I was never a good fisherman anyway.)
“And that rain, mommy? Why does rainwater fall from the sky, and why in drops?” She’d answer, “Now that, comes from Jesus in the sky, son, because he’s crying.”
That day, my three year-old brain started to reflect again about the mystery that was Jesus. My mother had already explained to us who that baby was in the manger under the Christmas tree. He was a nebulous character to figure out. My thoughts as to the reason why he was now crying were interrupted by the loudest thunderclaps I had ever heard in, well, three years!
“Now what, mom, and why?”
“Ooh, now it seems Jesus is really angry. I don’t know; have you done something bad?” she asked.
Oh, the things parents will say to elicit good behavior from their children. It was the same story with Santa Claus. That mysterious being, they’d say, knew if you had been naughty or nice. What’s more, if you had been nice, he would reward you! Now, that was one person worth knowing about. As the years went by, I would analyze all I could learn about him. He has a love for milk and cookies. Maybe that could earn me some extra points, right?
Still, as much as I loved Santa, a few things bothered me about him. How could he deliver those gifts to every child all over the globe in one single night? The answer I got was that his sled could fly really fast. Yeah, maybe, I thought, like supersonic jet planes. How about getting in the houses? Most people locked their doors, I reasoned.
“Oh, he uses the chimney,” they’d say.
The only problem was, we didn’t have a chimney. We lived in a two-bedroom apartment! Plus, he couldn’t fit into a chimney even if we had one. He was fat, and I wasn’t stupid. In cases like ours, I was told, he would just knock on the door. My sister and I were just never lucky enough to be awake when he did.
Still, the fact that he flew never quite satisfied my curiosity as to why his sled never left any traces in the snow. He still needed to land, didn’t he? Surely he also needed a few yards to take off. With so many missing evidences, things were starting to smell fishy as the years went by. Of course, I only had a small window of opportunity each year to test the truth. Now, I would have chosen to forget that fishy smell the day we finally met Santa at the shopping mall—if not for the fact that I learned afterward that he also spent the very same day at another shopping mall! Now, I felt grieved. One of them wasn’t the real Santa. Maybe neither of them was, and we were lied to.
A week or so after that, my parents hired someone to play Santa so that we could finally get to see him deliver our gifts while we were still awake. Unfortunately, by then my suspicions had made my eye very keen, and I recognized the large plumber who lived a few houses down the street. That was it! A lie! Santa wasn’t real. I had been the victim of a hoax all those years. I was prevented from being more insulted by the pride I felt for having discerned the truth. From then on, I would always think everything through.
That episode of my life (and a lot of other questionable “facts” from my Mom) taught me to always question things and think them through, and never to be satisfied with anything less than the whole truth. It instilled the belief in me that the truth should be strong enough to defend itself and withstand any questioning. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we will always get all the answers we seek, but still we shouldn’t be afraid to ask.
In my early twenties, someone presented the Word of God to me. History had already convinced me that the life and death of Jesus had really happened. I just never took the time to bother with how it related to me. Now, I was challenged. The challenge was a hard but simple one. It consisted of taking what I already knew to be the truth—the historical facts—and deciding if Jesus was really who He said He was, or if He was simply out of his mind. An imposter wouldn’t have gone through all this suffering, to the point of death, only to sustain an unprofitable hoax. And His words and general profile definitely didn’t match the profile of a mentally-ill person, as some would have us believe. He either was who He claimed to be, or he was not. I figured that if He wouldn’t have been who he claimed He was, He wouldn’t have been able to do all those miracles. And if not, why would we still be talking about Him 2000 years later, especially at Christmastime?
I like to say that I decided to believe in Him, but I also understand now that there was more than my reasoning to it. As I was going through my usual analysis process—this precious capacity that God Himself had given me—I could feel something press me on. Even though I couldn’t understand some of the verses presented to me, something would tell me they were the truth, the answer to all questions. Jesus was the answer to life’s ultimate questions, those “Why are we here?” type of questions. Today, 27 years later, He still passes the test for me. Whether I consider Jesus from a spiritual viewpoint or an intellectual one, He is still the answer that can follow all the way through any reasoning. Our faith is solid enough to withstand any honest debate, any test of logic. Now, I can celebrate Christmas and really be at peace with my reason for the season, and I’m pretty certain that my early obsession for logic and the truth—if not for Santa Claus—was not mine alone, but many readers’ as well. This Christmas season, we have already received our gift, the truth. What more could we ask for?