The evidence for the existence of Santa Claus was irrefutable — empty glasses of milk, trails of cookie crumbs and, once, a scrap of red flannel caught in the heating register. That red square was a sacred relic to me: a physical connection to Santa himself.
My family also taught me about Jesus, but Santa was much more exciting.
When my older cousin let me in on the Santa secret, I felt like the biggest fool on earth. I was angry with my parents for constructing such an elaborate deception, but more ashamed I had allowed myself to be so gullible. I vowed to be more careful in what I believed.
As I grew older, I saw Santa and all the holiday trappings as a diversion from the real reason for Christmas. The essence of Christmas was in the manger scene, in “Silent Night” sung in a candlelit sanctuary.
When my son was born, my husband and I agreed to teach him that Christmas was the celebration of Jesus’ birth, that Santa was make-believe. Gift giving was not extravagant, decorations were simple and cookie baking was limited to a few dozen favorites.
We remembered the poor, as many families do, by purchasing Angel Tree gifts, volunteering at the food bank and taking hats and gloves to the homeless shelter. We aspired to “all is calm.”
But the traditions, pageants and programming of church began to feel extraneous to me — God allows Himself to be heard in the still, small voice. I held to Jesus’ promise that, one day, we would no longer need to worship in the temple but would worship in “spirit and in truth.”
Then I encountered the Bahai faith. Everything Bahaullah taught struck a chord in me: that mankind is one and God’s dearest desire is for unity, that God unfolds His Cause to humanity through a process of progressive revelation, and individuals must come to the faith through an independent investigation of truth.
There are no churches, no clergy. All prejudice must be eliminated; humanity is reaching maturity and peace on earth will be possible. Even though it sounded like the voice of God to me, the crucial question was — what about Jesus?
Bahai teachings declare that Jesus is the Son of God, born of a virgin. God in His essence is unknowable, and Jesus and the holy ones who reveal God to us are like perfect mirrors reflecting the light of God to the world. Bahai holy days are celebrated by gathering in homes, reading from the holy writings and reciting prayers.
I continue to honor Jesus’ birth not as a holiday, but a holy day, and feel the warmth of the “radiant beams from His holy face.”
Dee Dombach and her husband, Scott, are members of the Carlisle Bahai Community. They welcome comments at email@example.com.