The Four Villains of Christmas – Doris Walker, the Unbeliever (Part 4 of 4)

This post is an excerpt from my book, I Hate Christmas! How to Identify and Overcome Your Inner Christmas Villain. This is the fourth of the 4 parts of the book, which will be published here online to help you prepare for Christmas this year. If you’d like to get the whole book, you can get it as an ebook from Amazon here

The first part of this series can be found here

Doris Walker, The Unbeliever

We should be realistic and completely truthful with our children and not have them growing up believing in a lot of legends and myths like Santa Claus, for example. … by filling them full of fairy tales they grow up considering life a fantasy instead of a reality.

Calling Doris Walker a villain may seem excessive, but as the main antagonist in Miracle on 34th street she is perhaps the worst of the dastardly bunch. Scrooge fears celebrating Christmas will lead to ruin; the Grinch abhors the noise and bustle; Jack Skellington wants to own it and do it all his way. But Miss Walker embraces the bustle and disregards the core of the celebration, the reason for its existence. She lacks hope, and tries to smother it in others.

Perhaps the most terrifying fact about Miss Walker is that she is the most real and least exaggerated of these Christmas villains. She is not a caricature, but portrayed as an ordinary person, like you or me.
Jaded when her romantic dreams of youth were shattered, Doris refuses to acknowledge anything but the obvious reality. No fairy tales, no unrealistic dreams, and no Christmas. Well, there is Christmas, with family and gifts and turkey, but no Santa and – though unspoken – no belief in the story of the Christ child, the reason for it all. In other words, no hope for anything beyond what you see with your eyes.

Judging by the fruits, consider that Walker’s actions set into play all that transpires; Sawyer the psychiatrist and Mara the prosecutor would not have had a chance to attack Kris if Walker had not handed him over to them. For Kris Kringle himself, Walker personified a growing disbelief and lack of faith the world over. Her despair sows chaos, unhappiness and discord.

It’s not just about Santa Claus and Christmas. In fact, there’s a bit of Doris Walker’s practical unbelief in every other villain. Greed, fear, and distraction require one to take their eyes of the real meaning of Christmas, existence, and the universe. Despite the fact that Miss Walker has no other “villain” qualities except her unbelief, it’s the first step to other perversions. In the same manner, the first sin in the Garden of Eden was not disobedience, but the doubting of God’s word. Doubt and unbelief is always the first step to other – worse – evils. It is this knowledge that terrifies Kris Kringle, causes him to despair and allow himself to be committed to the asylum.

Doris’ despair is contagious. While it is shocking that Kris Kringle himself is affected, it is especially tragic in the case of her daughter. A childhood deprived not just of fairy tales and magic, but of imagination and hope. Our views of God are shaped by our parents. Teaching them that all things have material explanations will kill the mysticism and deny them the ability to see the wondrous things in everyday life. And if creation loses its wonder, its Creator ceases to be wonderful or worthy of praise.

Perhaps it is the fact that we have so many material explanations that the modern world can no longer see miracles.

What of us, then? How might this unbelief and doubt reveal itself?
First, we have to consider that this doubt may be the root cause of any feelings of selfishness, fear, or distractedness in our celebration of Christmas. It is not a long-term solution to conquer the inner Grinch, Scrooge or Pumpkin King only to have feelings of doubt rise up and nurture the same or a new villain arise.

It may show itself as cynicism, skepticism, and bitterness. At Christmas we speak, pray, and sing of peace on earth, and goodwill to all – but that is not the case. We need no secular rebuke, we have it from Jesus Himself. He tells us the poor shall be with us always, that He Himself will bring division and not peace, and that the world will be full of wars and rumors of wars which must take place. Such a bleak outlook at the reality of our material world can make the hopeful proclamation of peace and goodwill sound hollow.

Finally, it may show as despair. It is a horrifying tragedy that the holiday season is noted for having an increased rate of suicide. Suicide, as G.K. Chesterton noted, is not merely the destruction of the self but the destruction of the world. It is an act of ultimate despair, finding nothing worthy in all of creation. For despair to be so prominent at a time of such expression of God’s love, promises, and hope for mankind is evidence of an epidemic of unchecked doubt. Even if your own periods of despair never reach such tragic levels, they must be addressed as symptoms of doubt.

Conquering the Inner Miss Walker
Once her eyes are opened to just how much of life her own doubt had closed off, Doris Walker counsels her daughter in how to believe: Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.

In today’s world, there is a lot more than just our senses and common sense telling us that only what we can see is real. Miss Walker is correct in identifying Faith as an active virtue, one that we must be persistent in cultivating. Faith is not the absence of doubt; it is the persistence of belief despite doubt, just as courage is persistence in the face of fear, not the absence of fear. Make sure to remind yourself constantly during your celebration of Christmas, in word, action, decoration, and example, of the real reason for the celebration.

Re-center and simplify your Christmas. Surround yourself with the sights, sounds and smells that call to mind the meaning of Christmas – God’s great love that brought him to life as man, and a man in poverty and oppression at that. While images of cartoonish Santas and snowmen may be distracting, seek to find the meaning and purpose in common symbols of the season. Purposefully choose decorations like the evergreen that represents eternal life and the eternal love of God, and a simple crèche as a reminder of Jesus’ crude birth.

Giving freely as you have received can be powerful as well. Not just in material things, but giving of your time as well, either to family, friends, or strangers. As you give of yourself – either a sacrifice of your material means, volunteering, or even the traditional giving of presents – remind yourself of the blessings you have received, especially the one of God’s only Son. Be sure to receive gifts from others with this in mind as well; giving of a Christmas gift is a sacred and solemn reminder to us all of the Ultimate Gift. Our generosity to one another is merely a feeble, humble attempt to give thanks the Giver of all. This is just one way we all participate in the vocation of the angels – whose name means “messenger of God.”

Finally, do not neglect your own communication with God. Renew your prayer life, and make it a priority to participate in church services throughout the season preceding Christmas (traditionally known as Advent) and throughout the Christmas season. If you’ve fallen away from regular prayer and attending church, this is an excellent time to resume the practice, and continuing it on into the next year.

Playlist Suggestions: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem of despair and hope, composed while his son was recovering from wounds during the Civil War,  is a very fitting song for times of doubt.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said:
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Saving Christmas

The modern made-for-TV Christmas movie genre has a recurring theme of “saving Christmas.” Through some extraordinary events rather ordinary people manage to save Christmas – by which they mean Santa Claus, Christmas spirit, or the celebration of the holiday itself. Of course, they generally neglect the real Christmas, which Christians, Whos, and redeemed Grinches would celebrate anyway.

There is something from that shallow idea that does ring true, especially if you’re having another one of those Christmas seasons you hate. It is up to you, an ordinary person, to save Christmas for yourself. No one else is going to do it. No amount of gifts, traditions, photos, memory-making moments, family, friends, church services or spirituality  will make Christmas mean more to you. If you aren’t open to it, even God Himself won’t be able to make you experience Christmas better.

There is a legend that in the early 1900s, the Times of London asked well-known authors to write essays on what was wrong with the world. G.K. Chesterton submitted the shortest reply: “Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton.” The story keeps getting repeated because it strikes a universal note. What’s wrong with your Christmas? You are.

That is, your attitude and your perspective are all you can change. As much as you might wish for your spouse or children or co-workers to improve Christmas, the only thing you can control is your own will. For a Christmas display in the store before Halloween to upset you, you have to let it. Just because someone else is using, abusing, or ignoring Christmas doesn’t mean you have to take it personally and let it poison your thoughts.

A brief aside – if you have certain people in your life that are explicitly telling you what you should and ought to do for them to enjoy Christmas, that is a more serious issue that involves them crossing a boundary. I suggest reading Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Towsend for more help with dealing with those kind of personal invasions. You are still limited to what actions you can take, but sometimes more involved and drastic measures must be taken. They even wrote an edition specifically for relationships with children.

As a Christian, we are called to constantly turn our wills towards God’s Will. In a fallen world, this requires an ongoing re-turning, or to use the Latin word volvere (to turn), an eternal re-volution. What better point in the calendar year to ignite this once again, at the celebration of our Saviour’s birth? There may indeed be a war on Christmas, but the battle fought within you is far more important than buzzwords and displays and news stories in the media. Defend the front this year, and take back your Christmas celebration by identifying and silencing your own Christmas villains.

So who’s going to save Christmas this year? If you’re going to do it (and no one else can) it starts right now with the resolve to keep Christmas, and not let anyone – even your internal Christmas villain – get in the way.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.