There are times when I can still be very much of a kid. Christmas is often one of those times. So when our Connecting Minister, Vann Conwell, asked me to dress up and play the part of Santa Claus at our Jesus Party, I couldn't resist!

Now to appreciate the situation, you have to understand what a Jesus Party is. That's simple; it is the kind of party that we believe Jesus would love to go to if he were still walking physically among us today. Our Jesus parties involve the mentally and physically challenged adults of our city. We go help these precious children of God have a party.

The party had been going on for about an hour when the grand entrance of Santa Claus occurred. He came with a hat full of candy canes and several sacks full of stuffed animals to share with the hundred plus partygoers. Santa barely made it twenty feet into the party room when a sea of eager partygoers engulfed him.

Getting to see this surge of joy from the backside of Santa's spectacles was unbelievably precious. Smiles and hugs and shrieks of delight greeted "jolly ol' St. Nick." A partygoer, also dressed as Santa, helped pass out the gifts, delighted to let everyone know that he was helping the real Santa. Gift requests for Christmas were made. Then as the sea of eager partygoers subsided, those who were shyer and who remained along the fringes were greeted and given gifts. In the background, one of the ladies talked with her mom on the phone, asserting with absolute confidence that, "Yep, this is the real one, Mom!"

Refreshments were served and it was time for Santa to leave. As we left the building, I was very overheated and was drenched with sweat inside the Santa suit, with long white hair and beard sticking to me. I debated for a moment whether I should remove the suit in this dark space where no one could see, or simply wear it all the way back to the car. Thankfully, I decided to do the latter.

As I neared our car, a lady in her seventies waved at me. I went over to her and she explained that her son, who was my age, was afraid to go in, but that he sure wanted to see Santa. As I went over to the truck to greet him, he smiled, clapped his hands, and bounced up and down in the seat. A hug, a candy cane, and a "God bless you!" later, and we waved goodbye. I wasn't sure who was more excited, this child of a man or Santa, both now lost in childlike wonder.

This night was one of those emotional highlights that I will carry with me the rest of my journey. As I slid into the passenger seat and my wife drove us away, I removed the Santa suit and savored the moment a bit longer. I had not been the pretend Santa for those at the party. I was the real deal. The joy was overwhelming and the gift to them and to me was genuinely touching.

God has given me an even more precious opportunity!
I realized, however, that God has given me an even more precious opportunity every day — I get to be Jesus to all that I meet. This role is even more important than Santa. In many ways, it is also much harder. There is no readily distinguishable suit or "Ho, Ho, Ho!" that identifies me to everyone I meet. Not all are ready to receive or believe in the presence of Jesus and his grace. Yet playing that role is far more important than being Santa Claus to the precious people I visited that special Friday night. Yet despite the cynicism and reticence of many today, everyone needs an opportunity to attend a Jesus party and meet the real Jesus. And I need to be the real presence of Jesus to each of them.

Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I am going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. (Galatians 4:19 NLT)So our faces ... show the bright glory of the Lord, as the Lord's Spirit makes us more and more like our glorious Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18 CEV)