Raised an Independent Fundamental Baptist, the kind of folks who think Southern Baptists are too liberal, you better believe Christmas was all about Jesus. Before opening our gifts, we read the story of Jesus’ birth and prayed to God as we thanked him for the ultimate gift – giving up his son to the Italians, I mean, Romans, so we wouldn’t have to burn for eternity in the lake of fire and brimstone that was Satan’s crib – Hell. We even did birthday cakes for Jesus. (Strangely enough, I often wondered why we’d blow out the candles on his behalf, with him being omnipotent and omnipresent and all.) Yes, “Santa” came, but there was always a wink and a smile from Mom and Dad that left suspicions in the back of my mind that perhaps it wasn’t Santa after all. I think I was able to put two and two together the one year that Santa gave me a Bible.
I think I was 7 or so. Already digesting the different opinions floating around the playground at school about the authenticity of Santa, mixed with the theories I was forming from my parent’s lack of promoting the whole Santa thing on the home front, all I needed was a little push and I would be ready to finally put the whole Saint Nick thing to rest. And I got it Christmas morning that year. Imagine my excitement when, upon waking up in the wee hours to feast my eyes upon the Christmas bounty, I find a brand new, brown leather, King James Version, Red-Letter edition, Scofield Bible with my name engraved on front. Um…hello? You got my list, right Santa? I don’t remember including religious paraphernalia.
First of all, I was totally happy with the Children’s Bible I’d been carrying to church functions 3 times a week for the past 4 years. Second, IT’S CHRISTMAS FOR GOD’S SAKE! That usually means a bike, a Big Jim or something I can blow up with firecrackers. But a Bible? Yeah, I know, Jesus’ words are in blood red. I get that. And, yes, having the cross-referenced passage column down the middle is a nice flair (thank you, Scofield). And, I’m aware that the nice onion-skin paper the pages are printed on gives that cool “crinkle” noise when you turn the page which, by design, will now require me to follow along with the sermon lest someone notice my new fancy Bible isn’t making that tell-tale sound when everyone else’s is. But, c’mon, I’m 7 years old. Oh…and my stocking included a yellow highlighter in case I found any interesting passages that I may want to revisit.
It was that year I realized, for good, that Santa was a devout Christian who lived in my house and slept with my Mom. Yes, that year I put the final nail in Santa’s coffin.