Santa at the Bus Stop
It was a bitterly cold winter day about a week before Christmas. I lived on the outskirts of the city where the houses were few, and the wind that day swept unhampered across the prairies. I trudged through the snow, bundled up in sweaters and scarves, with my bus fare tucked inside my mitten-covered gloves. Awkwardly, I carried my Bible and my purse. I was on my way to a weekly Bible class meeting. Soon after I reached my bus stop, a Santa Claus came out of the only building nearby, about 40 feet from where I was waiting. He laughed heartily and called: “The grocery store wants me to give candy to the children, but there’s a little girl in there who’s afraid of me, so I have to wait out here in the cold until she leaves.”
Just then, I heard that Voice I often heard as I traveled about: “Ask him if he knows the true meaning of Christmas. Tell him about Jesus. Give him a tract.”
Santa Claus was voluble and active. His hands and arms swung about like a windmill to keep warm, while he entertained me with stories about his job.
“Give him a tract,” the Voice insisted.
I looked at my hands, thick and fumbling with the gloves and mittens. I wondered if I could even get a tract out before the bus came; my Bible might fall into the snow.
“Tell him about Jesus,” whispered the Voice.
He doesn’t stop talking for a second, I argued. How can I interrupt him?
“Tell him! Tell him!”
But the bus was coming. Closer and closer it came. It was there. With a nod and a smile to Santa Claus, I boarded the bus and left him standing in the cold.
Even in the comparative warmth of the bus, I felt no comfort. I had disobeyed the Lord, and I knew it. Many times before, I had heard that Voice urging me to speak to the one who sat next to me on the bus or to someone waiting to transfer at a street corner. I usually obeyed and had many wonderful opportunities to witness for my Lord, who had saved me from a life of self-righteous arrogance.
Most people listened with interest. Occasionally I met with disdain and rebuffs. But even then my heart was always filled with a deep joy, for I found it true that: “If ye be reproached for the Name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified.” I Peter 4:14
But now, riding away from a lost opportunity, I felt no joy. Not until the warmth and blessing of the Bible class enveloped me, did I forget the jovial Santa Claus.
When I reached home that afternoon, the house was dark. I switched on the light and found my daughter Joan, then about eight lying on the couch.
“Oh, Mommy,” she cried, as soon as she saw me, “I saw the most awful thing today!” She covered her face with her hands and started to cry.
As I held her close, she told the story.
“After school I decided to go to Margaret’s house to play. And, when I began to walk down her street, a Santa Claus came running out of a house, burning up. He was screaming. We were all alone on the street and I didn’t know what to do. Then he threw himself into the snow and rolled around, and some people came out of the houses because they heard him scream. An ambulance came and took him away, but I saw him burning up, and it was awful!”
With a heavy heart I tried to comfort her. But where would I find comfort? For that Santa Claus died the next day. He had gone to his home for a bite to eat and had lit a cigarette after his snack. The flimsy material of his suit had caught fire, and, in a panic, he had run out into the windswept street.
O that he had had a Gospel tract to read! O that as he sat drinking his hot coffee he might have had words to think of, words I might have said, as:
“Do you know why they named Him Jesus? The angel said, ‘…thou shalt call His Name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.’ Matthew 1:21. ‘But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name.’ John 1:12. ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in…’ “ Revelation 3:20.
I cannot know the Santa’s relationship to God, but I do know that I missed an opportunity, and I failed to obey the Lord. The memory of the Santa Claus always reminds me that, in serving God, we can never be sure of a second opportunity!