His sleigh flew through impossibly clear skies. All the way, to little Jack’s house in northern Montana, perfectly clear skies.
As he approached little Jack’s house, though, his vision grew blurry. He wiped his eyes. He wiped again. Maybe it was the wind, but he suddenly saw a hole where little Jack’s house had stood all these years.
As he flew closer, he realized it wasn’t a hole. It was a pond.
He landed next to the pond and got out, instructing his reindeer to wait. Dasher snorted.
Santa walked around the pond, dumbfounded. Where had little Jack’s house gone, he wondered? And who could have built a pond in its place in a year’s time?
Suddenly, a bright light shone in front of him. Slowly, he began to make out the appearance of a person. It looked like a woman wearing some kind of dress. Oh, no, it was a robe, he realized after the light dimmed and his eyes adjusted. And it was a man.
The man walked toward Santa, arms outstretched as if to hug the big man.
The man stopped within only a few feet of Santa’s nose. They stood there, in silence, looking at each other, up and down, side to side, each bearing no visible expression.
Finally, the man spoke. “I am God. Well, more precisely, I am Jesus. I mean, I am God, too, but I’m also his son. It’s complicated.”
Santa stepped back and his eyes widened. “I’m sorry, did you just say that you’re God?”
“Yes, I am the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, the savior of all mankind. But, like, I’m also my father. It’s really hard to explain.”
Santa squinted his eyes in disbelief. “Son, who are you? And where is little Jack’s house?”
“It’s still here. I just hid it for a bit. I needed you to stop.”
“Why?” asked Santa.
“Because we need to talk,” said Jesus.
“Talk about what?” asked Santa.
“Us,” said Jesus.
“Son, I’m not following. I’m an old man. I just deliver presents. You’ll have to explain,” said Santa, crossing his arms.
“Yes, about that. I’m going to need you to stop,” said Jesus.
“Stop delivering presents?” asked Santa in disbelief.
“Yes, I am afraid so,” said Jesus.
“You have to be kidding,” said Santa. “This is what I do. All the little girls and boys expect me to come by every year and give them presents for being good all year. It's their reward.”
“I know, I know,” said Jesus. “It’s just… no one thinks about me anymore,” said Jesus. “All they think about is buying presents for each other and getting presents for themselves. It’s not what Christmas was meant to be,” said Jesus. “It was meant to be about me.”
Santa tilted his head. “I don’t understand.”
“See, Christmas was originally a celebration of my birth. People gave me gifts to symbolize their devotion to me,” said Jesus.
“But lots of people still go to church on Christmas,” said Santa.
“Yes, of course. I know. The thing is, though, they’re going out of tradition and to make themselves feel better. Not because they love me. And, besides, when is the last time you saw people give gifts to me?” asked Jesus.
Santa grew angry. “Wait, so you’re saying that instead of people giving each other gifts out of love for one another, you want them to give only you gifts as a symbolic gesture. And these are gifts that you will never use.”
Jesus smiled. “What good are earthly possessions when there is an eternity waiting for those who believe? Besides, of course I wouldn’t use them. I don’t live here.”
“Wait, wait, I’m sorry. So you’re telling me that if people give you presents and if people, generally speaking, live out their entire lives for you, putting you first in all things, then, after they die, they will be rewarded with a trip to Heaven, correct?” asked Santa.
“That’s right!” said Jesus.
“So, to be clear, you want people to suffer while they’re alive so they can be rewarded only after they die?” asked Santa.
“That’s right,” said Jesus. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven. Matthew 5:12.”
“Is that the book you wrote?” asked Santa.
“Oh, no, I didn’t write it. I just told people what to write, through the Holy Spirit, which is also… well, that’s also hard to explain,” said Jesus.
“I’m sorry, but none of this is making any sense,” said Santa. “You’re going to have to try a lot harder if you want me to quit doing my job, a job that only I, on this whole entire planet, can do and that every kid on Earth expects me to do.”
“Fine,” said Jesus. “How’s this? You take my job.”
“Excuse me?” asked Santa.
“Yes, you be me!” said Jesus. “It’s easy! All you have to do is wait a few years, come back down to Earth, maybe shed a few pounds beforehand so you’ll be in shape for your grand entrance, and then take, like, 144,000 or so of the people alive back with you. It couldn’t be simpler.”
Santa blinked in disbelief. “I… I’m lost for words. I’m so confused. And you seem like kind of a prick, if I can use a word I’ve never used before. What happens to everyone who doesn’t go back with you?”
“Oh, they’ll suffer for 1,000 years or so while Satan comes down and has some fun of his own,” said Jesus.
Santa stepped back, arms still crossed. He thought for a moment. Then, he turned around and reached into his gigantic red velvet, drawstring bag and dug around for something.
“What are you looking for?” asked Jesus.
Santa didn’t reply and only kept digging. Finally, he stopped, grabbed something, and said, “Oh, oh, oh! Found it!”
Santa slowly turned around with his hands behind his back, holding the mysterious object from the bag. Santa's grin stretched from earmuff to earmuff.
Jesus began to smile, too. “Is that… is that for me?”
Santa slowly took his hands from behind his back. He held a small, rectangular present with a bow and a card. He handed the present to Jesus.
“Oh, my. Thank you so, so very much, Santa! I never get presents anymore. I can’t wait to see what’s inside.”
Jesus opened the card. It read, “To: Jesus, From: Santa.” Jesus's eyes widened. He ripped apart the bow and wrapping paper and tore open the cardboard box underneath. Then, for what seemed like minutes, he stared at the contents of the box in utter confusion.
“What is it?” Jesus asked.
“This will bring you peace, my son,” said Santa.
“But… but I already have peace. I’m Jesus.”
“Yes, but this is a different kind of peace,” said Santa.
“How does it work?” asked Jesus.
“You smoke it,” said Santa. “Trust me. Hours of heavenly bliss.”