Just last Monday night I had a strange visitor. This is how it happened. I had just finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed when I heard a noise in the front of the house. I opened the door of the front room, and to my surprise, Santa Claus himself stepping out from behind the Christmas Tree. He placed his fingers over his lips so I wouldn't cry out.

"What are you doing here..." I started to ask, but the words choked up in my throat as I saw that he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner is gone ~ gone was the eager, boisterous soul we all know. As I stood there in my night shirt bewildered, Santa said, "Teach The Children." My perplexed expression still showed in the near darkness.

"Teach them the old meaning of Christmas ~ the meanings that Christmas nowadays has forgotten." "Teach the Children, the star was a heavenly sign of promise long ages ago. God promised a Savior for the world and a sign of the fulfillment of that promise was the great star of the East. The star now reminds us of God's love for mankind and of God fulfilling His promise. The countless shining stars at night ~ one for each man ~ now show the burning hope of all mankind." Santa gently laid the star upon the fireplace mantle and drew forth from the bag a glittering red Christmas ornament.

"Teach the Children, red is the first color of Christmas. It was first used by the faithful people to remind them of the blood which was shed for all people by the Savior. Christ gave his life and shed his blood that every man might have God's gift to all, eternal life. Red is deep, intense, vivid. It is the greatest color of all. It is the symbol of the gift of God." As Santa was twisting and pulling another object out of his bag, I heard the kitchen clock begin to strike twelve. I wanted to say something, but he went right on.

"Teach the Children", he said as the twisting and pulling suddenly dislodged a small Christmas tree from the depths of the toy bag. He placed it before the mantle and gently hung the red ornament on the big Christmas tree. The deep green of the fir tree was perfect background for the ornament. Here was the second color of Christmas.

"The pure color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round," he said. "This depicts the everlasting hope of mankind. Green is the youthful, hopeful, abundant color of nature. All the needles point heavenward ~ symbolic of man's returning thoughts toward heaven. The great, green tree has been man's best friend. It has sheltered him, warmed him, made beauty for him, formed his furniture." Santa's eyes were beginning to twinkle now as he stood there. Suddenly I heard a soft tinkling sound. As it grew louder, it seemed like the sound of long ago.

"Teach the Children, that as the lost sheep are found by sounds of the bell, so should it ring for men to return to the fold; it means guidance and return; it further signifies that all are precious in the eyes of the Lord." As the soft sound of the bell faced into the night, Santa drew forth a candle. He placed it on the mantle and the soft glow from its tiny flame cast an eerie glow about the darkened room. Odd shapes in the shadow slowly danced and weaved upon the walls.

"Teach the Children," whispered Santa, "that the candle shows man's thanks for the star of long ago. It's small light is the mirror of starlight. At first candles were placed on the Christmas Tree ~ they were like many glowing stars shining against the dark green. Safety now has removed the candles from the tree and the colored lights have taken over in the remembrance."

Santa turned the small Christmas tree lights on and picked up a gift from under the tree. He pointed to the large bow ribbon and said, "A bow is placed on a present to remind us of the spirit of the brotherhood of man. We should remember that the bow is tied as men should be tied ~ all of us together, with the bonds of good will toward each other. Goodwill forever is the message of the bow."

Now I wondered what else Santa had in his bag. Instead of reaching in his bag, he slung it over his shoulder and began to reach up on the Christmas tree. I thought he was hungry as he reached for a candy cane, purposely placed high on the tree. He unfastened it and reached out toward me with it.

"Teach the Children that the candy cane represents the shepherds crook. The crook on the staff helps bring back the strayed sheep to the fold. The candy cane represents the helping hand we should show at Christmas time. The candy is the symbol that we are our brother's keeper."

Santa then paused. He seemed to realize he should be on his way. Later would be his big day. As he looked about the room, a feeling of satisfaction showed in his face. He read wonderment in his eyes and I am sure he sensed my admiration on this night. He was his old self as he approached the front door. The twinkle in his eye gave Santa away; I knew he wasn't through yet. He reached into his bag and brought forth a large holly wreath. He placed it on the fireplace and said,

"Please Teach the Children the wreath symbolizes the eternal nature of love; it never ceases, stops or ends. It is one continuous round of affection. The wreath does double duty. It is made of many things and in many colors. It reminds us all of the things of Christmas. Please Teach the Children."

I pondered and wondered and thrilled with delight,
As I saw and viewed all those symbols that night.
I dozed as I sat in the soft candle light,
And my thoughts were of Santa and all he made right.

To give and to help, to love and to serve,
Are the best things of life, all men can deserve.
Old Santa Claus that jolly fat little elf,
Is the very best symbol of Christmas itself.

He's the sign of the gift of love and of life,
The ending of evil, the ceasing of strife.
His message to me on the pre-Christmas night,
Has opened a treasure of deepest insight.

The one thing on earth we all ought to do,
Is the teaching of children the right and the true.

May the joy and magic
of Christmas be felt within
your heart and home ..
now, and throughout
this New Year!