A couple of weeks ago my Facebook posts were loaded with a shocking set of pictures. I have posted one of them so you can get the idea. Clearly, SANTA’S REINDEER ARE LOST! They were photographed wandering around in downtown Alton, Illinois. I was a resident of Alton 25 years ago and I can testify that in nearly a decade, winter or summer, we never saw a single reindeer or any other kind of deer wandering around in front of the library in the business district. So, even though the deer population in Illinois has reportedly risen dramatically, there can be no doubt at all these reindeer are lost!
It isn’t fog that did it to them, as in the 1939 tale told by a Montgomery and Ward ad-man, so that Santa called upon sad Rudolph to lead his sleigh that night. The song based on the little story has become so well known, and cartoon versions so universal, that it is no longer acceptable to talk of just 8 reindeer, named by Clement Moore in his poem published first on December 23, 1823. There now have to be 9, led by the most famous reindeer of all even if the night is clear as it was in “O Little Town of Bethlehem” as Phillips Brooks remembered it from his visit on Christmas Eve in 1865. He said that the night was the same as the night Christ was born. The sky was filled with silent stars and then broke “the everlasting Light,” seen first as a star guiding Magi from afar with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Santa brings the gifts now, with a lot of assistance, but it’s still up to him and his reindeer WHO ARE WANDERING AROUND, LOST!
But I have a concrete solution.
We all know that things have expanded since 1823 when Moore described the reindeer as “tiny” and Santa as “a little old driver” and “a right jolly old elf.” Thomas Nast, the most famous cartoonist of the 19th century, depicted Santa Claus as an elfish fellow, but that would never do. Someone is needed between miniature and gigantic, as is the star in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. That immense balloon-size Santa would never fit onto a throne in a shopping mall, much less get down a chimney. In fact, by the middle of the 20th century the chimney thing was glossed over, except for stockings hung carefully close by if there is a fireplace. No, Santa has grown. Santa needs to be human-size in order to help sell things. The classical pictures were in advertisements by Coca Cola. There is no doubt what scale Santa was, because everyone knows what size a bottle of Coke is. So there you are.
It’s time to get over the notion that bulky Santa could be gotten aboard a tiny sleigh. The sleigh would have to be both big and able to navigate in climates without snow. If the climate keeps getting warmer as it is now, there might not be snow on rooftops pretty soon. I think Santa has abandoned rooftop landings as he has his slimming diet.
Just this week I saw the group of sleigh or wagon pullers a Santa needs around here. No worries, mate, reindeer lost? Here’s your substitutes….
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.