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Dear Emily – The Santa Letter

December 30, 2014


I failed in 2014.  A lot.  There’s no reason to enumerate my failures, only to make some sort of amends to a very small contingent of friends who used to read This Pilgrim’s Progress when I posted with consistency.

For anyone who has followed This Pilgrim’s Progress for a period of time, you know I publish an annual “wisdom for an x year old” post for our oldest daughter, Emily.  That didn’t happen in 2014.

The truth is, I wrote a letter.  Or, really, multiple versions of the letter.  But all of them were thrown away.  When it came time to write a letter, Michelle and I were still processing the loss of our 16 week old daughter in utero and I was simply unable to write without the emotions of that experience seeping into the letter.  It just wasn’t right, so I didn’t write it.

However, 2014 afforded me and Michelle the opportunity to write an entirely different kind of letter to Emily.  Due to a very serious barrage of questions, it came time to share the truth about Santa Claus.

I won’t try to explain the relationship between Santa Claus, St. Nicholas and the Williston family.  If I was describing it on Facebook, I’d simply post “it’s complicated.”  What matters is the kids are bought in.

Michelle and I talked a great deal about how to share the news.  Ultimately, we settled on a letter.  We started with the brilliant “Dear Ryan” letter that’s been floating around the internet for the last several years.  But we knew there was more we wanted to convey about faith.  So we wrote draft after draft and, a few days before Christmas, we shared the news.

The good news is, it went well and “team Santa” now has it’s newest member. After sharing the letter with a few friends, we felt like we should share it with all of you who might find yourself in a similar situation in the years ahead.

Thus, without further ado, I present to you the “Dear Emily” letter – Santa edition.  Feel free to take it, make it your own and use it as needed.

Dear Emily,

Lately, you have been asking a lot of good questions – grown up questions. One question you’ve asked – Is Santa Claus real? – is one we’ve been waiting to answer until we knew just how.

The short answer – yes, Santa is real, but not in the way that young children believe in him. St. Nicholas was a real man who loved God and understood the importance of sharing God’s love through giving to others. This is why his real life story has been passed down, eventually becoming the magical story we tell about Santa, Reindeer and everything else.

Mom and Dad fill your stockings, pick out gifts and make footprints in magic snow. We do this to help tell a story to help you understand things like generosity and love. And we do this to help kids understand that amazing things can happen when you believe in something you cannot explain.

All of the lessons we teach you in the story of Santa are lessons that, we hope, help you understand the TRUE story of Christmas – the story that the REAL St. Nicholas shared with his life and love – that the God of the universe stepped out of heaven and into the earth as a tiny child, eventually giving up his life for us with his death on a cross.

The story of Jesus is a story of God’s generosity- the way he gives us grace and love when we certainly don’t deserve it. It is about love – love that conquers death and forever opens God’s arms to us. And, it is about believing that God has a plan for our life, even when we do not understand. This is the story that the real St. Nicholas told. This is the story that the “magic” Santa Claus helps children to understand.

Eventually, kids stop believing in Santa, the made up story. This is part of life (even Susan, Edmund and Peter and Lucy couldn’t keep returning to Narnia forever). But we hope the lessons you learn will forever help you believe in the real lessons of Christmas – of God’s love that surpasses all understanding.

Now you know the truth of how Santa visits all of those houses. His “magic” lives in moms and dads who want to help their kids understand God a little bit better. Now you know and now you’re on Santa’s team to help others understand the same.

We are so proud of you and the young woman you are becoming. We love you now and forever.

Mom and Dad

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2014 9:08 am

    man Chris. Not for the first time, I wish you guys were our neighbors. This is beautifully explained and so thoughtful. I hope you will keep writing in 2015 – your posts always make me think and consider my faith within a different context. Happ New Year to your sweet family!!


  1. Visitors in Belén | camino55

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