Santa ClausJesus sits waiting at Starbucks.

A few minutes later, Santa bumbles in the door, breathless. “Sorry I’m late. You know how hard it is to find parking for a sleigh and nine reindeer this time of year?”

“I’ve been here… like forever,” Jesus replies, glancing at the clock. “In fact, I’m always here.”

“Yeah, well, not all of us are omnipresent. Or eternal. You couldn’t be late if you tried.”

“Touche.”

Santa flops down in a chair across the table from Jesus. “Jesus and Santa. We make quite a pair, don’t we?”

Jesus laughs.

“I’d love a grande caramel syrup creme. If that’s okay,” Santa asks.

“Sure.” Jesus stands up, then gets in line.

Santa rolls his yes. “Couldn’t you just “poof” me one? You don’t have to stand in line, you know. You’re God.”

Jesus smiles. “I like spending time with people. The feel of loose change. Talking to the baristas. I’m a big fan of incarnation.”

“Yeah, I guess so. Could you get cinnamon sprinkles on top?”

A few minutes later Jesus returns with Santa’s drink. He slurps a sip, then sighs. “Jesus, this is the best steamer I’ve ever had. Really.”

“Every good and perfect gift comes from above.”

“But we’re here below.”

“Incarnation, friend. Incarnation.”

“Right. I forgot.”

Jesus leans forward, eyes keen. “So, what’s on your mind?”

Santa sighs again. “What isn’t? I mean, here we are, smack dab in the middle of ‘our’ season, and yet again, I’m not sure I can get everything done. Don’t get me wrong. Delegating to the elves was a great idea—thanks for that—but it’s still an insane amount of pressure I live with. Come Christmas Eve, if all the presents aren’t in place by midnight… I can’t even imagine. Truly. That would be catastrophic.”

“Truth be told,” Jesus replies, “I’m always a little sad this time of year.”

“Why? You’re the reason for the season!”

Jesus chuckles. “Technically, yes. But I have no bright red suit, no glowing reindeer or magic sleigh. I don’t pile presents under the tree or stuff stockings full of loot.”

“Eternal life is sort of a big deal.”

“Oh, don’t get me wrong; I’m not sad for myself. It’s just that we’re like two uncles visiting for Christmas. You bring a boatload of gifts. I bring myself. Which of us do you think the kids are more excited to see?”

“I see what you mean.”

“But you mentioned the pressure you live with.”

“Yeah. If I don’t measure up to millions of kids’ expectations, I’ll ruin Christmas. If I don’t perform, the kids won’t love me anymore. I wouldn’t be Santa anymore, not really. And then there’s the “naughty and nice” list. What a nightmare! Did you know every kid has two columns, and we’re keeping track of every nice thing and every naughty thing all year long? And then, when all is said and done, do you really think anyone actually gets coal in their stocking for being naughty? Not a chance. Everybody gets a gift. So what’s the point?”

Jesus’ eyes brim with tears. “No offence, but it sounds like the whole thing is off. Skewed.”

“Skewed?”

“Well, the pressure you feel, for starters. How would you like that to change? How would you like to be free of having to perform?”

“I can’t imagine. I’m not perfect like you are.”

“Exactly. What if I took the perfect, righteous life I led on earth and gave you the credit for it?”

“What?”

“And it gets better, friend. I proved my love for you when I died for you. I proved your value, your worth, once and for all. So imagine never having to try and earn love, ever again.”

Santa’s eyes mist over.

“And the ‘naughty and nice’ list… I actually have the master copy, so don’t worry about keeping track of how good other people are. And my list actually matters. I actually hold people accountable to that list.”

“Am I on your list?”

“You are.”

Santa takes another sip. “So tell me, am I in the red or in the black? Naughty or nice?”

Jesus reaches over and pats Santa’s hand. “Friend, everyone is naughty and worse. Everyone. Good doesn’t cancel out evil.”

“Then I’m doomed. Then we’re all doomed.”

“No, I’m just getting started. Because my death was the perfect payment for your sins.”

“So I’m okay then?”

“No.”

“Well, then what do I have to do to fix the problem? What’s missing?”

“There’s nothing you can do to fix any of it. What you have to do, Santa, is admit that you can’t fix it. Can’t save yourself. Can’t make it work. And invite me to do the work for you. Let my death and resurrection be your new North star.”

“But I’m Santa.”

“Mmmhmm.”

“This shtick is what I do. I keep the list, I deliver presents, I travel the world. Repeat.”

Jesus wipes away a tear.

“Thanks for the pep talk though, Jesus. It’s been great. But like I said, I’m pretty busy. I’d better be going.”

“Okay.”

“But hey, I think you’re great. I really do. And thanks for the drink.”

With that, Santa is off.

Jesus sips his drink. “And like I said, I’m always here.”