Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday's Essay - Decide to Be Jolly

Below is an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can hear a podcast of this message by going to the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website ( for more church information.

If you find this essay helpful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

Image result for jolly santa
Now, I find Santa Claus to be a fascinating person. You see, we all know him as “a right jolly old elf,” but I’ve got to tell you, I really don’t understand why he’s so happy. I mean, just think about him physically. Not only is he getting up there in age, but unless he’s had stints, he must feel winded just climbing into his sleigh. And I can’t even imagine the constant pressure he’s under. He has only one year to get toys ready for the good girls and boys all over the world. And even if you exclude youngsters in North Korea and Neo-Nazis, that’s still a bunch of kids. And that’s only made more difficult by the fact that the most popular toy every Christmas may not be known until sometime in September. In other words, I’ve got a gut feeling that he must have a pile of hoover boards that he made from January through May just stacked in some North Pole warehouse. And he can’t even out source his production to China or Indonesia; he’s stuck with elves. Right now I feel pressure because I haven’t bought anything for Debbie; I can’t imagine multiplying that by about a billion. But if you think this is bad, just imagine the stress he’s feeling on Christmas Eve. My gosh, even with time zones and the international date line, I’ve got to think circumnavigating the world in twenty-four hours is a challenge, especially when all you have pulling the load is eight tiny reindeer. Maybe instead of leaving milk and cookies, Santa would appreciate some Milk of Magnesia and a roll of Rolaids. In my book, Santa has more reason to feel stressed than jolly.

Image result for jolly santaAnd yet that’s not the case. Every picture I’ve seen of the big guy, he’s got a big smile on face, and his hands are on his jelly-like belly just so it doesn’t jiggle too much. As a matter of fact, I think he always looks like he’s just heard some absolutely wonderful news, you know, the kind of thing that can turn any smile upside down. And his “Ho, Ho, Ho” never sound forced or fake, and I sincerely believe him when he tells me to have a Merry Christmas, because I think that’s exactly what he’s having. And as he does his work, in spite of the obvious time constraints, he never seems hurried. He never seems rushed. He never seems impatient. And I’ve never gotten the impression that he’d prefer to leave a gift certificate or something from Amazon rather than a shiny new bike or a Red Rider air gun. As a matter of fact, when I went to the movies this past Monday, I saw a film of him actually taking the time to drink a coke. Now that’s a guy who knows how to smell the flowers.

Of course, this engaged and optimist Santa stands in pretty sharp contrast not only with a lot of folks I see all the time but also how I feel on a less than stellar day. You see, even though I don’t have the physical limitations of St. Nick and I don’t have the stress he faces every year, I’m not sure you could classify me as jolly. Of course I have my moments. But I’ve got to admit, I complain more than I should, especially about things over which I have no control. And I’ve been  known to say things with an edge, maybe even a little sarcasm. And you can take it to the bank, I’m irritated every time I’m interrupted when I think I’ve got something important to do. Therefore, even though I may not be the Grinchiest person in Weirton, I’m certainly not the jolliest either.

Image result for jolly santa
And in light of this fact, I’ve been thinking about the differences between Santa and me. And when you eliminate the physical stuff (he has a lot more hair) and the differences in our job descriptions, I think Santa has made a decision that I haven’t made. You see, I believe he’s made the decision to be jolly and I haven’t. Now let me be clear. I’m not saying he’s decided to look or sound jolly and I’m not suggesting that’s he’s so deluded himself that his world really is all candy canes and poinsettias. No, I think Santa decided that he’s going to be happy. Regardless of what happens, he’s going to be intentionally optimistic, and he’s going to make an effort to see the best in every person and situation. As a matter of fact, if he’s a religious man, he’s probably decided to trust that God’s in charge, that he holds the future in his divine hands, and that no matter how things appear right now, his last words are “mercy and compassion.” You see, I think Santa has decided to be jolly, and for him, that makes all the difference. And I’ll tell you, it can do the same for us, when we make the decision ourselves.

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