“The happiness your toys bring…is your gift.” S. Claus in The Meaning of Christmas
The original Star Wars movie was released in 1977. Our son, Chris, was seven, and our daughter, Gretchen, was three. So, Chris saw the movie first, going with a counselor from the church camp my husband ran as part of his job at that time. Chris had a huge crush on Julie and asked her to take him…it was his first “sort of” date. Over the next few years, he began to collect Star Wars figures, a Millennium Falcon, a light saber, and we saw the movie several times. He LOVED Star Wars. Finally, when Gretchen was six in 1980, it was re-released just before the Empire Strikes Back was due to come out, so she saw it as well.
As was true for a lot of our life, but especially before I went back to work, money was tight. I scrimped and saved all year for Christmas and planned it down to my last penny, like a general marshaling the last of his troops. But the universe, (God to me), had a different message to give that year. It happened this way:
By 1980, we had moved to Syracuse. Doug was a Pastor with three Christmas Services on the 24th. So that Christmas Eve, the children and I frosted the last of our cookies for Santa (The recipe is in my blog post Santa Cookies – Making Christmas Memories) and I started the Stollen dough that would be our Christmas morning’s breakfast bread. Then, Chris and Gretchen and I ran to the store for more sprinkles, whose purchase was going take my last $2.00.
Of course, front and center as we walked into the store, there it was on display: Christmas in the Stars: A Star Wars Christmas Album record. The kids were beside themselves with excitement. I don’t remember what it cost, but I didn’t have the money. So, I tried to talk them out of it – “why, we didn’t even know what it sounded like” – but to them it was Star Wars…so it had to be great. Of course, I was heartbroken as I told them I just didn’t have any more money. Gretchen still had confidence, “Don’t worry, Mommy, you have checks.” But that only works if there is money in the bank, and my Christmas money was spent. More explaining….Chris was crushed.
Christmas junkie that I am, I had always been determined that Christmas would be the one time of year my kids would not do without even if they were preacher’s kids. So, I was equally crushed. But not Gretchen, and I heard her confidently say the words every parent dreads: “It’s ok, Chris, we’ll just ask Santa for it. It’ll be ok, Mommy.” She believed in Santa and his ability to grant wishes with every fiber of her being, the trust shining in her eyes. Chris, who had decided immediately after Christmas the year before that Santa no longer existed, looked at me, and wisely said nothing. Yet, more explaining. “Santa’s sleigh is probably already packed, honey. He may not be able to get it into his bag on time to get it here this year.”
We finished our baking, ate what had to be a quick dinner with Doug, and went to the 7:30 Christmas service. Then, we raced home. Time to write our notes to Santa and put out the cookies. Gretchen confidently wrote in her note: “Santa, please bring the Star Wars album for my brother.”
Once the kids were finally settled down, I explained to Doug what had happened as he opened cards people at church had given him. Just as I told him, he opened one that had $20 in it. We usually used any money we received at Christmas to pay bills, and to save to give us a little bit of money for emergencies in the months ahead. It never lasted the whole year, and we needed every penny, but Doug handed me the twenty dollar bill, and I raced to the store, thinking all the while that I would spend this money that we really needed for what would probably be the worst album that had ever been made. Yet, there was no real choice, Santa couldn’t let Gretchen down (or even disbelieving Chris, either).
Christmas morning, on the very top of the jumble of gifts under the tree, wrapped in Santa paper, there it was: Christmas in the Stars. Chris actually jumped for joy – perhaps even restoring his faith in Santa a little. Gretchen, just thrilled for him, said, “I told you Santa would bring it.” The ah ha moment came to me then: Santa had honored my daughter’s faith. It’s just that like God does, he works in mysterious ways.
We put it on the turntable: “Christmas in the Stars, Christmas in the Stars, what a Merry Christmas it will be,” C3PO sang. “Christmas in the Stars, out among the stars, underneath the Christmas tree…” he continued, and “Our hearts are full of joy, full of joy,” sang back the droids working in a factory making Christmas toys. The concept of the album was of a Santa’s Workshop where droids made toys and wondered about the boys and girls who received them.
It was hokey, “What Do You Get a Wookie for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb)” [Jon Bon Jovi sang in his debut on that one] and “R2D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas” but the music was catchy, melodic, had a beat, and was well produced.
The message was better.
The last song on the album, The Meaning of Christmas, actually brought me to tears. It still does. It begins with this discussion between C3PO and S. Claus, Santa’s son (singing in italics)
C3PO: Mr. Claus, pardon me for asking, but what does Christmas really mean? Could you explain it to us.
S. Claus: “Of course, I would be happy to.”
Christmas is a time for joy. Christmas is a world of snow. Christmas is our own face shining with a special glow, and as any child can see, Christmas needs a Christmas tree, linking tiny lights with family close at hand. Christmas wreaths on every door, Christmas carols by the score, Christmas is a time for peace and love.
When we say, I can love you, my gift to you, is that I do, will you all say with me to each other, I can love you, my gift to you, is that I do, I do.
I don’t know if our kids ever knew how much love I felt that Christmas morning. Love for my son who adored Star Wars. Love for my daughter who loved her brother and believed in Christmas. Love for my husband who probably had a hundred uses for that $20 – but gave it to me without a second’s hesitation to make our son and daughter happy. But what I do know is the belief in my heart that day, the joy in the knowledge that our children were the greatest Christmas gift I ever received, and that while we ultimately replaced the record with a CD, Christmas in the Stars is the first album we have listened to every Christmas morning since that day.
So as C3PO says at the end of the album: “Merry Christmas everyone, and may the Force be with you always.” Want to listen for yourself (seems appropriate that my first YouTube in a post is this):