PLAYING FATHER CHRISTMAS IN MOLDOVA:  What I’ve Learned About God

It’s Friday in Moldova and I’m suiting up in anticipation of making my surprise appearance to a room full of orphans in Falesti.

My first experience as a European Santa imposter came on Thursday when our mission team visited the orphanage in Drochia. That morning, as we were doing “ice-breaker” activities with them, at least 3 little girls responded to the question, “If you could spend a day with anyone, who would you choose?” with the answer, “Father Christmas.” Suddenly the gravity of my little part in this brief and happy charade has begun to hit home.

As I make my auspicious entrance into the door at the back of the room and kids begin to become aware of my jingling presence, the excitement mounts and is electric. At this point, I sense their interest is directed toward my jolly old soul rather than the sack of gifts I’m toting over my shoulder. I know that most of them recognize the eyes behind the beard because they’ve known me for years now, but I still feel the sense of newfound celebrity.

With the help of a few of my entourage of elves I begin to pass out the assortment of gifts our team has carried across the ocean.

With every gift I hand off, I am struck by conflicting emotions:  the joy of giving that is matched, at least momentarily, by the anticipation on their faces versus the queasy feeling in my stomach that our gifts, once opened, won’t deliver on the full expectation of their impact. And since I, as Father Christmas, am the delivery agent, I sense that my celebrity status is now in real jeopardy!

In retrospect, I wonder if this experience is the bittersweet bread that we force-feed our Lord on a daily basis.  Is He the gift we crave or are we more interested in what He has for us in His promising bag of gifts?  And how must He feel knowing that, even the most satisfying of those gifts will fade in importance over the years, perhaps ending up in the warehouse of our discarded, once precious memories?

Playing Father Christmas is teaching this dimmest of disciples how shallow the stream of my faith runs and how wise is the Father who yearns for us to love Him more than we love what He can do for us!

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