My Christmas morning began as they all seem to have, today. Being beckoned from sleep, I pulled on sweat pants and sweater and wandered out into the dark at 4 am on what in California was a clear, cold morning. The cold earth against feet which only a few moments ago had been under the covers, sharpened my senses, and bending back I looked up to see the matrix of lights strung out within the dome of a multi hued, dark firmament. I then let it all flow through me from ground to sky and back. And I thank God for yet another year having passed, and the one which is yet to come, on this spinning rock, circling the sun.
As friends and family know, I was born this morning, more years ago then I care to dwell on. I had often wondered if my early morning birth had anything to do with the resultant lifetime of early rises. No doubt it had much to do with why I love Christmas. My life was a gift. I try to keep that fact somewhere not too deeply filed away in the cognitive process. Each December marks the time of remembrance of why we are all here, and always reminds us to return to purpose.
I have always been perplexed about Santa Claus. Quite honestly, the idea of a jolly fat man dressed in red wool and white ermine, keeping track of the children of the world’s developing moral compass heading, and flying round the world in a sled drawn by magic flying reindeer, never resonated with me as a child. But it sure did as I grew, and saw what the concept created for so many of Humanity stretched all over this blue rock.
I believe it was 1966, the first time the absolute incongruity and absurdity of Santa hit me. My family had taken a drive up coast to Santa Barbara where we were re locating for my Father’s new job in the Aerospace industry. I was pretty excited. We were going to get to live near the Ocean! As we made our way up coast in a 1955 Chevy wagon, all six kids managed to keep themselves busy, and had settled into the drone of what for us was yet another long drive. We had done quite a few of those as my Father pursued his Engineering career.
As we passed through Carpinteria, we saw him. Santa Claus was perched atop a building! The big statue stood out against a blue sky at the beach. All of us kids were pretty excited that Winter day. The roadway he lived on in fact was called Santa Claus Lane. Here is a little bit of history on this Santa.
Over the years I grew fond of this Santa. A pretty good beach break for wind swell on Summer days, lay just off of where he saluted all daily from his perch.
Recently my oldest son Josh asked me what he needed to do, in order to run in a half marathon which was to occur in about 2 weeks. Knowing my son’s background in running and cognizant of his recent sedentary life spent focused making music and in his budding Photography career, both having taken a toll on him physically, I asked why the two week deadline? He told me that his brother Jon, who is a martial artist and some fighters from his gym on Main St here in Ventura, were doing something called the Santa to the Sea run.
You see, Santa now living next to the 101 Fwy in Oxnard carries out a new mission from his more recent digs. He serves as a focal point for the run. As I began to look into this Santa’s run, I was surprised to learn that he was focusing the community on not just fitness, but giving to those less fortunate. Each runner along with entry fee brings a gift. The gifts are later donated to under privileged children. Watching the online media stream from my sons and their friends, I became aware of the significance of this giant plaster Santa I had known since being a child. You can read all about Santa to the Sea Run here.
The run was full of great stories. Like my son’s Muay Thai gym participating, various other community support entities, like the two Oxnard PD officers doing to the entire run in full duty kit! That the run takes place on December 11 really matters, as it guides the community into an appropriate mind set for what in my eyes is a big annual re set button as we all determine to focus on peace and some togetherness, through giving of ourselves. I call it the Santa Claus(e). You give, and as the giver, you are blessed and have the opportunity to give more in the course of the upcoming year. The process always brings to mind a scripture verse that has stayed with me for generations:
“To whom much is given, much is required”
But here is the magical part about the Santa Claus(e). It seems that no matter how much he (one) gives, more arrives. The Clause is all about flow. Remember that big red sack out of which Santa pulls an unending stream of gifts? That is your heart. You only get to be a conduit. What do we transfer? Care. Love. Gentleness. Goodness. Strength. Redemption.
I went down to Oxnard the day all the gifts were given out. I shot it, yet opted not to share the images for a number of reasons. But what I will share is what I saw. That what everyone had done during the run mattered. It was so very obvious in all the patient families and happy children gathered on a street blocked off for the day by the City of Oxnard. Overseeing it all was that same saluting Santa I had met as a child.
Each Christmas season along with my regular ocean subjects, I endeavor to shoot Christmas in and around my town. Inevitably, in process, I experience the generosity of people which really has a profound affect on me. It gets a little tricky these days, due to the pressures of being involved in my wife’s company, Betty Belts. She does a lot of work in Christmas retail. She and her staff create beautiful hand wrapped, hand made gifts. They toil like the fabled elves (even sorta dress like them and Donna has pointy elfen ears OEM) long hours to deliver beautiful work to their customers, who in turn will bless family and loved ones with something the entire company here in the US and on Bali takes a great deal of responsibility for, in doing well.
So here are a few of the things I saw this season. There were a ton more. But these stood out to me, mostly because of the people involved and just like Santa, you won’t see them in the frame, because Christmas is not about the giver so much it is about our gift, and that really needs to always come from our heart.
The Christmas story is powerful, not just because of what our traditions signify, but because of this:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that who so ever would believe on him would be saved. I always think about this. That helpless looking little child being born in a stable, whose life, and death would result in a resurrection. It all started and ends with: an expression of love.