Note: This commentary was
delivered by PFM President Mark Earley.
It's the big question every parent confronts, sooner or later: Does
Santa Claus really exist?
As a father, a lawyer, and the president of a Christian
ministry, I can confidently tell you the answer: Yes! There really is a
Santa Claus. But he does not live at the North Pole. He lives in South
His name is Ed Butchart. He is an ordained minister, and he
runs a ministry called Friends of Disabled Adults and Children. In that
capacity, he repairs wheelchairs for people in need.
But for 20 years, Butchart, who has a white beard and a
little round belly that shakes when he laughs like a bowlful of jelly,
has another ministry—one that involves putting on a bright red suit.
A lot of people think Santa Claus is about helping shopping
malls make more money. But Santa—I mean, Butchart—has his own ideas
about his role. Santa, he says, should be "an embodiment of the
unconditional love Christ has shown."
As Butchart notes in his book, The Red Suit Diaries,
the legend of Saint Nick was rooted in Bishop Nicholas of Myra.
Nicholas was known for secretly giving gifts to children as a way of
emulating the gifts the magi gave to the Christ Child. But as time went
on, the legend of St. Nick became commercialized and used in Christmas
"Stripped of his Christian origins," Butchart writes, Santa
became a strictly pagan figure—one who interfered with the true meaning
of Christmas. Butchart wondered: Could he somehow steer attention back
to the true story about St. Nicholas?
For the answer, ask some of the thousands of children he has
held in his lap over the years—children whose wheelchairs he has
repaired for free. Or ask the parents to whom Santa quietly gave money
so their kids could have a Christmas tree.
Or you could ask Annette Cone, a young woman who attends
Butchart's church. Annette, who has Down syndrome, came up to Butchart
one year just before Christmas and gave him a piece of paper. "Here is
my Christmas list, Santa," she said. On her face was a look of complete
faith and trust. Several families in the church offered to help buy the
gifts, and two days before Christmas, Butchart and his wife took them
to Annette's house. She opened the door and said, quite
matter-of-factly, "Mama, it's Santa Claus. I told you it would be him."
Butchart was thunderstruck by her simple faith. "What if
believers could have that same trust and confidence in the promises of
Christ?" he notes. "What if everyone just knew that what [Christ] said
was true and that he could be trusted?"
It was then that Butchart began to believe that "sharing
God's love with kids could be a calling for a man who looked like Santa
Claus and who had a lot of love to share, [just] like Bishop Nicholas
so long ago."
So, is there really a Santa Claus? Yes—St. Nicholas was a
real person who loved children. And so is anyone else who loves
children and witnesses to them of Christ's love for others.
That is why, in my book, Ed Butchart really is a Santa
Claus. What a blessing he has been to thousands of children—and what an
example for the rest of us. He shows us how to honor Christ whose
birthday we celebrate.