I love the Christmas season. There are so many things that help us get into the swing of the holidays.
For some of us, it is simply seeing the Christmas items being put on the shelves at the department store the day after Halloween that gets us in that Christmas spirit. Perhaps, it is seeing Santa at the mall. For some, it could be watching “A Christmas Story” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” on television.
But for me, there is nothing that can get me more into the spirit of Christmas than by thinking about Hanukkah Harry.
One of my favorite television shows is “Saturday Night Live.” Back in 1989, the cast presented a little skit called “How Hanukkah Harry Saved Christmas” — and it actually featured a very powerful message.
It is Christmas Eve and Santa has come down with a serious stomach virus. He can’t keep any food down, and he is confined to bed. Unfortunately, he’s not going to be able to make his annual global trek to deliver gifts and toys to all the good little girls and boys. Mrs. Claus suggests that he send the elves in his stead, but Santa says they don’t possess the magic to complete the job in the brief midnight hours before Christmas morning.
Ah, but Santa has a bright idea. He picks up the phone and makes a long-distance call from the North Pole to Hanukkah Harry on Mt. Sinai. Harry is getting ready to deliver gifts and toys to all the Jewish children during their eight-day Festival of Light. Hanukkah Harry definitely has the magic and is only too glad to help Santa out in a pinch by delivering toys to all the gentile girls and boys.
Hanukkah Harry arrives at the North Pole and is met by Mrs. Claus, who says, “We can’t thank you enough, Hanukkah Harry. Santa just can’t keep anything down.”
Santa and Mrs. Claus are so grateful to Harry for helping out with Christmas and shower Harry with compliments of appreciation. Harry responds with, “Oy! Stop. You’re embarrassing me!”
It is so obvious how relieved Santa is. Mrs. Claus goes over to Santa’s bedside and mentions how nice of man Hanukkah Harry is. Santa looks at Mrs. Claus with a smile and said, “You know, I guess deep down everybody is pretty much the same.” And just when Santa says that, they hear Harry whip his donkeys while shouting, “On Moische! On Herschel! On Schlomo!”
While Harry is delivering presents, two young siblings, Scott and Christine, sneak downstairs at their home. They want to see if Santa has been at their house already, but notice that the milk and cookies set out remain on the table. Just then, they hear sounds from the roof.
The children hide behind the Christmas tree. Harry and his blue hat come head first down the chimney. He yells “Oy!” He carries a blue sack with a menorah painted on it.
As he walks toward the kitchen, Scott, is unable to contain his excitement and leaps out at Harry and startles him substantially.
Scott looks at Hanukkah Harry and says, “You don’t look like Santa. Santa’s supposed to have a red suit and a cherry nose. You have a black suit.”
Hanukkah Harry proceeds to tell the kids that he is not Santa, but Hanukkah Harry bringing toys to all the gentile boys and girls.
“Now Christine, Santa told me you’ve been very good. So I’m being especially nice to you. He hands her a present. She is so excited she rips open her present.
“Socks?” she asks, surprised.
Harry is so excited and shouts, “EIGHT pairs, can you believe it?”
“And Scott, for you — some slacks.”
The kids don’t look too happy. After a moment, Christine says, “Gee, Hanukkah Harry, thanks and everything, but normally Santa brings us toys and fun stuff.”
Harry has a big grin on his face and says to the children, “Fun! Ha! Have I got fun? Christine, for you — a dreidel!
“And for you, son, some chocolate coins.”
It’s obvious that the kids still are disappointed.
At that moment, a light bulb goes off in Christine’s head, she looks at her brother and says, “Well, you know how we’re always jealous of Rachel and Josh down the block ‘cause they always get Hanukkah presents for eight nights?
“Well, maybe these are the kind of presents they get, so we shouldn’t be jealous!”
Scott affirms Christine’s thoughts when he says, “You’re right! You’re right!”
Christine went on to say, “And if Hanukkah Harry is helping Santa, maybe that means that Christians and Jews, deep down, are pretty much the same. Maybe that’s the true meaning of Christmas!”
Just then, in a flash, the group is surprised by the sound of sleigh bells and the sound of “Ho! Ho! Ho!” coming from outside. Then Santa comes down the chimney, and he is not sick at all.
“Your little speech about the true meaning of Christmas magically cured my flu,” Santa tells them all. “Now I can relieve Hanukkah Harry and deliver all the toys to all the gentile boys and girls!”
Santa gives Christine a Barbie, and he gives Scott a pellet gun. The kids are thrilled.
Christine notices that Hanukkah Harry is sad, and she runs over to him and says, “We love you, too! If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t have had Christmas at all!”
What a beautiful message — and it came from “Saturday Night Live,” of all places.
It is my hope and prayer that this Christmas, even though each religion is different theologically and we all have our own uniqueness that we will embrace, we are all God’s children.
And deep down inside, we are all the same.
The Rev. Scott Murphy is pastor of Columbus’ Memorial Baptist Church.