As my husband and I were putting up Christmas decorations yesterday, I was humming songs to myself and remembering when my kids were young and I would take them to see Santa. They would be so excited. Then I remembered an unusual Santa sighting I had about five or six years ago. My kids were high school age so they were way too cool to believe anymore but this Santa gave me pause to think.
It was late September and the apple trees on my property had produced some beautiful looking apples that fall. I still wouldn’t eat them, though. You see, the trees are about 60-70 years old and hadn’t been properly trimmed or pruned in at least 50 of those years. Apple trees only produce quality fruit for 20 years or so and as the tree ages, the fruit loses its taste and crispness. Our trees had never been cut back so they were full grown trees rising 30 feet in the air. Though they looked beautiful in the spring, they are a pain in the fall. Dropped apples have to be raked off the ground so we don’t attract bees. When we first moved here 20 years ago, I had baked some pies with the apples and though the fruit was tasteless for eating, you could make a decent pie with them if you added enough sugar and cinnamon.
That fall, the trees looked incredible with large heavy apple hanging from them. One afternoon, I heard a knock at the door. When I opened the door, I saw an elderly gentleman with wavy white hair and a full white beard. He had those crinkly blue eyes that make him look like he is always smiling.
“Good Afternoon, Madam” he began. I was staring at his t-shirt which had a picture of Santa in his sleigh with his reindeer swooshing across the sky. I looked at the t-shirt Santa and then looked up at the man’s face and thought, “No, couldn’t be”, but the resemblance was uncanny.
He laughed and pointed to the word “believe” written on his shirt, nodded his head and said, “I’m not in my usual work clothes today but you can believe what you are seeing!” I took a step back into the house while closing the door a bit for protection. “Can I help you?” I asked cautiously.
“Just saw those beautiful apples and wanted to ask your permission to come on your property and pick some. I can make some wonderful apple pies for some people who would appreciate them”, he said.
I kept shifting my eyes between the santa on the shirt and the Santa standing in front of me. Fearing retribution on December 24th, I didn’t want to take the chance of giving Santa old, tasteless apples to bake with. “They are not very tasty”, I warned him. “The trees are very old and the apples have no flavor anymore. They just look good but don’t taste very good, I’m afraid”.
He crinkled up those blue eyes and let out a Santa laugh. “Don’t worry about that. I can work some early Christmas magic.”
Now it gets really strange because the next thing I know, I’m getting out the long apple picker from our garage and offering to help him. He didn’t want to be a bother and just accepted the apple picker and went to work. He gathered about 2 baskets of apples, returned the picker and thanked me. I watched him drive off wondering what had just happened.
That was probably the last year that our aged trees produced any real apples although they bloom beautifully each spring. I never saw the man again and always wondered how those pies turned out and if the people he made them for truly enjoyed them. I don’t doubt that his “early Christmas magic” worked and he was able to make something tasty out of tasteless apples from old trees.
When I was very little, I used to think that Santa and God must be related somehow. They had so much in common. They both loved me and brought good things into my life. After the apple picking episode, I learned another similarity.
God can take the junk in our lives and make the most beautiful art out of it.
God can take all the junk in my life, all my fear, doubt, anger and anxiety that hold me back and make a glorious painting that is the me He has always intended me to be. If Santa can make delicious pies out of inferior ingredients (and I have no doubt that he did), imagine what God can make out of us. If only we trust Him, If only we turn to Him in faith and stop trying to control God. Unlike Santa where we tell him what we want and expect him to bring it, God tells us to come Him with all our cares and worries and then step back and watch Him work. It may not always be brought to our homes with sleigh rides, jingling bells and flying reindeer but God will deliver what we need. And not just on Christmas Eve, but all year round.
So that’s my story of apple picking with Santa and all the strange ramblings of thought that came with that visit.
May you Christmas season be magical.
May your apple pies be flavorful.
And may the peace of Christ reign in your heart.