This afternoon my seven-year old asked me why we celebrate Hanukkah, and I explained to her the miracle of the oil and the lights. She was fascinated by the story and asked me what allows miracles to happen, what the force is that compels wild things to occur and make us believe in the magic that can exist in the world. I explained to her that magic as we think of it is just illusion, all of which can be explained, but that true magic is when something unexplainable happens, when the fabric of the universe is unveiled and all its beauty spills out into our hands, but we don’t see where it comes from. It’s the magic of the oil, and the magic of the magi, and the magic of a larger than life human being with a love of giving gifts to children.
“Who is God?” she queried after I told her the story of why we honor the traditions of the Jewish faith.
“God is the reason everything happens,” I explained.
“So is God magic, since he brought about the miracle?” she asked, scrunching her face up like she was thinking hard.
“Yes, in a way, God is the ultimate magic. He creates something out of nothing,” I answered.
“Like the miracle of the oil?” she asked. She asks a lot of questions, but that’s okay. It’s how she learns.
“Exactly like the miracle of the oil,” I said, nodding my head.
“Well then, what about Christmas? Tell me that story,” she said. And I realized that I had never before truly talked to either one of my children about the real reason for the season. You see, we’re not just a family that follows the Jewish faith and traditions. We’re new-fangled, like a mix between a lion and a tiger, and we believe in multiple perspectives. So, I was ashamed that I had spent so much time talking about the magic of the oil and never talked to my daughter about Jesus Christ.
So I told her the story of the immaculate conception, of the trip to Bethlehem, of no room at the inn, and of the birth of Jesus in that manger, and she sat there attentively while I explained why we celebrate Christmas, the real reason we celebrate Christmas, that it’s to commemorate the birthday of a savior, of one member of the holy trinity. And of course she had a lot of questions afterward.
“Um, so if Jesus is God, how could he die?” she asked. And at first I wondered how she knew Jesus died, but then I realized my wife must have had some of these discussions with her before, and I was amazed at how much Alexa comprehended those discussions and had synthesized the information. I explained to her the glory of the body/spirit paradigm and how that too is a sort of magic, that it’s unexplainable and yet it exists. I told her about how God became human flesh, when the spirit of Jesus went into a physical human body, one that was vulnerable and that could die. I expounded upon how I believe the human spirit ascends after death, that it goes back to where it began.
“When I did, will my spirit go back to heaven?” she asked.
“If you believe in it, then for you it will happen,” I said. “I believe in it, and I think the spirits of loved ones who have died are waiting for us there.”
“That’s beautiful to think about,” she stated simply, like she usually does.
“I agree. It’s also beautiful to think that we go on even after death, that it’s not the end,” I said, feeling all warm and fuzzy.
“Um, so where does Santa fit in all of this?” she interrupted my reverie. And I told her how he’s a sort of rich cousin of Jesus Christ who can’t die and who has his own magic but is often misunderstood by adults. Explaining how he can live at the North Pole when it’s all water and ice, well, that was a little more difficult, so I didn’t explain it. I said it was magic, something that was unexplainable but that still is. She nodded sagely, like the little Buddha that I liken her to, and she said:
“That’s what I thought.”
And I laughed.