Mary first noticed the kid because he had been tagging along behind her son and his friends. Not joining in, mind you, always at a distance, just watching the older boys. Mary’s son tried to invite the kid over to play with them by smiling and waving, trying to make him feel welcome. That was always the case with Jeez — that’s what everyone called Jesus back then — he felt comfortable and natural being in a group of followers, but there was always room for more. But the kid wouldn’t join in.
“What’s his deal?” Mary asked herself. “Where’s his home? Does he have one?”
Things came to a head when Jeez and the gang stopped over to have lunch, and the kid jumped out and started punching him. The kid was pretty young and skinny, so the punches did not hurt. Jeez quickly saw the problem and embraced the boy, told him he was loved, and gave him something to eat. Well, from that point, it was done. Jeez had a younger brother.
Mary tried to figure the kid out. He wore a threadbare red jacket and red pants. Clearly his only clothes, his only possessions really, and he didn’t want to give them up. He was scared. Didn’t want to say his name when they asked. Finally, Mary got out some parchment and charcoal so he could write it down.
“S-A-N-T-A?” asked Mary. “Santa?”
The kid looked at her for a second and then kept writing.
“C-L-A-U-S,” said Jeez in the German pronunciation. “Cool middle name! I love you.”
“Satan Claws,” the kid said. “I don’t spell good. My dad named me after himself. He’s Satan. And ‘Claws’ is for my hideous claws.”
He held up his perfectly ordinary hands. “I was sent to kill Jesus with my claws. But I don’t want to now.” Mary was unfazed. Odd people had been showing up since Jeez was born.
Jeez only had a couple of toys of his own, but he grabbed the closest one. “It’s a cart,” he said, showing it to the boy. “A toy cart. See? The wheels turn and you can put stuff in it. You can have it. It’s yours now.” Love swept over and through Satan Claws. He had never had a toy before.
“Your name should be Santa Claus from now on,” said Jeez. “My little brother Santa Claus, whom I love.” Santa Claus felt at home for the first time in his life. He smiled and began to laugh in a low, rumbling chuckle.
Throughout childhood, the brothers never lacked for toys. Santa loved making toys, and he was really good at it. And fast, too. He made so many toys that he started giving them away to the younger kids in the neighborhood. When each kid was overstocked with toys, Santa found ways of getting into their houses any way he could to drop them off. The parents appreciated the thoughtfulness, but it got to where you never knew when Santa Claus was coming down your chimney, and that was kind of unnerving. Finally, they asked Santa to pick one — and only one — day a year to drop off toys.
Once they were adults, Jesus became pretty busy with his volunteer group and his carpentry. He built his brother a nice big workshop. And Santa? Well, the thing about trauma — like trauma that stems from being the son of Satan — is that it can lead to some pretty odd behavior down the line. Santa spent all his time making toys. Obsessively. He tried to give other people the joy he had felt with that cart, so he just kept making toys while subsisting mostly on cookies.
Sometimes Mary’s friends would see her dumping the extra toys in a landfill and approach her.
“It’s so sad what’s happened to Santa,” they would say. “I guess it’s inevitable he’d have problems given where he’s, you know, from.”
“Problems?” Mary would ask, an edge in her voice. “No, my son has talents. My son is amazing and I could not be more proud of him. If you don’t believe in Santa Claus, that’s your problem, Nancy.”
But while Santa worked in solitude, Jesus was out in the community and not everyone was, you might say, buying his brand. Over the course of his volunteer work, Jeez had made a lot of enemies, people who didn’t like what he was saying. And things were heating up.
One night, Jesus had gotten together with his closest friends for a big dinner. Santa was invited but declined, saying he had some toys to build. Jesus just shook his head and laughed. Classic Santa.
As the dinner wound down, the door slammed open and an angry voice called out, “I’m looking for JESUS!” Jesus and his friends fell silent, fearing it was some roughneck temple guards. “Oh, ho-ho-ho!” laughed Santa, entering the room, proud of his prank, “You fell for it!”
“Santa Claus!” the group yelled out. Everyone loved Santa Claus. He brought new toys for the room full of adult men. “A wooden ducky,” said Mark with a smile, “Thank you, Santa Claus.”
As the group adjourned, Jesus pulled his brother aside. Jesus was not smiling. “Santa Claus, listen. There are guys coming for me and it’s going to get bad. I don’t want you getting mixed up in all this. You have your whole life ahead of you, which might be eternal because your dad is Satan. You need to get out of town. As far away from Jerusalem as you can, and make toys there.”
“Santa. You remember my birthday, right?”
“Yes, Jeez, of course, December 25th,” Santa said.
“I need you to make sure that everyone who’s into me celebrates my birthday. AND that they know that even though it’s MY birthday, THEY’RE the ones that get presents.”
“What? Okay. That is so nice of you!”
Jesus peered out the window. “Listen, I bought some reindeer from a nomadic herdsman, and I did a little, kinda, special miracle deal with them. Go with them, Santa.”
“Reindeer?” asked Santa, “They’re from the north. It’s cold there.”
“Way ahead of you, little brother,” said Jeez. “I had this made.” He opened a box, and inside was a thick, warm suit with a matching cap.”
“Red! My favorite color! Because it’s like Hell, where I was born! It’s an odd fixation I have.”
“Go, Santa! Now! And I love you.”
Santa laughed. “But you love everyone, Jesus.”
“Well, yeah,” said the older brother, with kindness.
And with that, a smile, and a wink, Santa Claus dashed away.