Are you God?”
Six-year-old Madison was staring up at Old Cal, her eyes filled with admiration. The question seemed quite logical to her. Over the past two weeks she had heard her dad refer to God as “the man upstairs,” and a dear aunt regularly referred to church as “God’s house.”
Since Old Cal lived in the organ loft high above the pulpit and since he sported a flowing grey beard, that conclusion made abundant sense.
Children – even adults – have this mental picture of a physical face of God, and Old Cal could certainly fill the part. He used to be hired by the local mall to play Santa Claus and children invariably pulled on his beard to see if it was real. There are, in a child’s mind, strong similarities between Santa Claus and God.
Madison hadn’t seen Old Cal before, since he made a point of vacating the organ loft on Sunday mornings. She had once spotted Old Cal entering the door to the loft, put two and two together, and reasoned that this was where God lived.
It took her a couple of weeks to muster the nerve to pay him a visit. She took a deep breath, opened the door, and climbed the steep stairs to the loft. It was a long way up and she imagined that she had climbed half way to heaven by the time she got to the top. When she saw his face and his gentle eyes, she gasped in awe. Old Cal greeted her warmly.
“Are you God?,” she asked. He smiled deeply and searched for an appropriate response. How does one respond to a young mind who asks such a profound theological question? But before he needed to answer, she gave him a gift bag.
“I brought you a present,” she said rather shyly. “I asked my Mom if God ever got presents at Christmas and she said that he didn’t need any. God, thank you for giving me Jesus.”
Old Cal’s eyes teared up and his heart melted. He removed the wrapping and pulled out a well-worn teddy bear.
“Zack is my most favourite bear,” she said. “I want you to have him.” Old Cal was too moved by the experience to even consider setting the record straight. How could he shatter a child’s theology? How could he possibly rob her of the greatest gift of all: the gift of giving?
“Zack must be a very special bear,” he told her. “How about if I put the kettle on for tea – do you like tea? – and then you can tell me all about you and Zack.”
When the time came for her to leave, Madison gave the bear a loving hug and then placed him carefully on the bookshelf.
“Merry Christmas, God,” she said as she headed down the stairs.
Keith Knight is interim editor of the Anglican Journal.