At this time of year, most of the books I read have Christmas themes and settings. I often place myself in the story as I’m reading. Lately, of course I’ve been reading romances because that’s what I write.
But this week’s theme asks which Christmas story character I would want to be. To answer that I have to go back several years – not quite to my own childhood, but to when my own daughters were young. In 1985 a man from my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan published a picture book called The Polar Express. Like many others, I bought the book and read it to my children, as well as to the children I taught.
The story about a young boy who rides a mysterious train to the North Pole and meets Santa Claus has delighted children for over thirty years, gaining an even wider audience once Tom Hanks made the book into a movie. The boy (who’s never named), is chosen to receive the first gift of Christmas. Wanting a tangible memory of his trip, he chooses a bell from Santa’s sleigh and is granted his wish. The heart of the story, for me, is in the last three sentences of the book: At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.
There are many reasons why I would love to be the boy in the story. Obviously, it would be wonderful to have someone tell you “Choose any gift you want, and it’s yours.” I can’t imagine having that kind of power. What would I choose? A new house, complete with servants? A year-long trip around the world? Or world peace? Would I think of myself or others?
The boy is definitely brave and adventurous. Going on a train ride to the North Pole is an adventure worth remembering. I went on my first trip (without my family) when I was sixteen and traveled to Europe with the American Youth Symphony. There have been many, many trips since then, and I could identify with the boy’s sense of wonder at seeing so many new people and places. There is so much to see, and I never grow tired of planning the next trip.
Of course, there are parts of the story that I wouldn’t want to be faced with. I can’t imagine waking up in the middle of the night and seeing a train in the middle of my street. I don’t think I would board that train in my pajamas without telling someone or trying to get someone to go with me (I’m adventurous, but I’m not THAT brave!), and without grabbing a few essentials to bring with me. But I think what draws me to this character is his steadfast belief in what he saw and knows to be true. He could explain it away as a dream, but long after the bell stops ringing for others, he continues to hear it.
I’d like to think these traits apply to me as well. I believe in a Higher Being who is able to grant my every wish. He brings happiness to people all over the world, regardless of who or where they are. And I never know when or how he’s coming to take me to his home. I know that when I get there I will see and experience amazing things, unlike anything I know about now. Like Santa’s sleigh bells, The Christmas Story rings only for those who believe.
What Christmas character would you want to be?