I was one tiny trip of the tongue away from a room full of crying five-year-olds and a storm of parental fury. Thankfully I escaped by the skin of my teeth.
I do want to first say a few things in my defense, to make myself a more sympathetic character in your eyes, before I disappoint you. First, I grew up not believing in Santa. I don't mean that I stopped believing very young. I mean that from the beginning my mother had made the decision to tell me that Santa wasn't real. Second, growing up in Brazil I didn't really have to be careful about ruining it for everyone; Santa Claus is not really a big deal down there. Third, our kids don't do Santa. We've told them not to ruin it for the other kids, but at our home there's no Santa.
What I'm saying is that I'm completely devoid of Santa Instincts. I have to be actively thinking about it to not blow the surprise. And I wasn't actively thinking this morning.
I teach kindergarten Sunday school at my church. Bunch of five-year-olds, all as cute as can be. Happy little girls, rambunctious little boys.
Today the lesson was on the Trinity, which obviously occupied a lot of my brainspace. The lesson was great, and I got to crush modalism and monarchianism, so that was nice.
Since we're in Advent, we talked about Jesus being God's greatest gift to us. Discussion lingered briefly on presents, and I don't remember exactly what sparked it, but one little girl said "We get presents at Christmas if we don't sin."
Now, I think no less of the little girl because she said that. First, because she's five. Second, because that is as clear and logical a statement of santaclausism as ever there was.
Nonetheless, I rushed in my role as Sunday school teacher to nip this heresy in the bud. We had, after all, been talking about Jesus as our greatest Christmas gift. So when she said "We get presents at Christmas if we don't sin," I said, "Well, that's true with Santa Claus, so it's a good thing Santa's not..."
And I lurched to a halt.
I looked around. None of the kids seemed alarmed. My son didn't open his big mouth for once (for that matter, no other kids blurted anything out either; maybe they were stunned). I ventured a glance at my co-teacher and smiled tentatively. Her kid's in that class. She smiled back indecipherably.
Wifey tells me I could have been a little quicker on my feet, finished with something like "it's a good thing Santa's not Jesus." I couldn't do it. I just moved on. Said that Jesus is our gift regardless of our sin.
This was a near escape. First, I can only imagine the backtracking and compromising and outright fabrication I would have engaged in if I'd made these kids cry over Santa Claus. But the biggest feeling of having had a near escape was the thought of what the parents would have done if I'd ruined Santa for everyone. Right now I'm having fun imagining the colorful adjectives that would have been used against me, but at that moment a thin line of cold sweat broke out on my scalp.