It was a Christmas Eve a long time ago – longer ago than I’d like to admit to, honestly.
My mom and I were driving home from our church’s 11 p.m. candlelight service. Attending it was a momentous event – a grown-up rite of passage for me as a young girl.
Down the road we went, not more than two miles from home, enjoying the twinkling lights and the peaceful night, me fidgeting in the backseat with excitement, still clutching the candle I lit when we sang “Silent Night.”
There was no mistaking the bells. Clear as day, I heard them. Sleigh bells. No question.
Doubt arrived first. It must have been coming from the radio. Nope. Volume down, bells still ringing. My mom heard them too.
Panic quickly replaced doubt. The kind of panic only an 8-year-old girl caught awake on Christmas Eve is capable of. I alternated pleading with my mom to drive faster with scheming how I could look asleep in the car if indeed Santa discovered me out of bed.
But the bells were just the beginning.
High in the sky, in a perfectly straight line, were eight brilliant (and to be honest, slightly terrifying) white lights. In front? You guessed it. One solitary red light, steady as could be.
Mom saw it too.
Panic took hold and didn’t let go.
I don’t remember much of the ride home after that, but I do remember waking up to a plethora of toys and treats under the tree. I could finally exhale. I’d seen the unbelievable and didn’t get caught.
Every year since then, when bells start ringing and white lights adorn houses and light the night sky, I remember that drive. And as I grew older and Santa’s existence became a source of school bus debate, I retold the story. Each Christmas.
My mom shared it with my sister’s fourth-grade teacher when she told her students Santa wasn’t real. I told it to my daughter, now 13 and in on the secret. I tell it even today to my son, 11 years old and still wide-eyed with wonder and a mild dose of skepticism. I hope they will tell it to their children one day.
What my mom and I saw was real, no doubt.
“But you didn’t really see him,” you exclaim. “You just saw the symbols of him. Why would you still, after all these years, think you saw Santa — that he exists, somehow?”
Why wouldn’t I? Why shouldn’t I?
I can’t see love. I can’t see hope. I can’t see those whom I love but are no longer with us. But I do see their symbols and their manifestations in me and in those I love who are still here on this earth. Every day, I do.
And I believe.
So this holiday season, even if you don’t believe in Santa, try believing in – really believing in – and embracing the things we can’t see. Let’s believe in kindness. In love. In hope. It’s there. I know it is.
And maybe, if you’re truly, truly lucky this Christmas Eve, you’ll see the lights and hear the bells, too.
And you’ll believe in the magic, once again.
Julia Byrd is the owner of Nine Birds Communications, a company dedicated to helping you build your business through inbound marketing. A complete believer in the magic of Christmas, she’s excited to share her close encounter with you. You can reach her at NineBirds@outlook.com.
Photo credits: FreeImages.com/Hobbes Yeo (Santas)/Michael Lorenzo (sleigh)