It is Christmas Eve and the Vanity Fair Mall Santa Claus is nearly finished being jolly old Saint Nicholas for another year. But there is something different about this Santa. He is renting a body from mortal Ken Larsen. Santa listens carefully to Christmas wishes and speaks words of wisdom to each child, but when ten-year-old Billy Mitchell sits on his lap and asks for world peace, Santa suddenly realizes it is the one wish he is unable to grant.
After Ken's shift as Santa ends, he heads to his girlfriend Sandy's home with his red bag on his shoulder. They exchange gifts, and it seems like a peaceful Christmas Eve until the doorbell rings. Suddenly Ken finds himself precariously perched on a dilapidated fire escape outside Sandy's window-with her jealous husband inside. Things go from bad to worse when Ken slips on the icy platform and plunges to his death. But all is not lost when Ken meets Jesus and learns he must return to his body and travel to Israel and help the world make peace. Limited only by Santa's rules, Ken must do everything within his newfound spiritual powers to grant Billy's wish.
In this fictional parable, one man holds the weight of the world on his shoulders as he makes an unprecedented attempt to achieve worldwide peace.
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PEACE ON EARTHA Mystical Path to Free Agency
By Kenneth Rex Larsen
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Dr. Kenneth Rex Larsen
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSanta's Little Gift
Our story begins on Christmas Eve. I'm about to finish being Santa for one more year. I make a pretty good Santa. I put on his costume, and he speaks through me. I'm perfectly shaped to be Santa. I'm five feet nine inches tall and weigh about 230 pounds. The Santa outfit is snug but not tight. The beard and wig are perfect. Some women have even said I'm an attractive Santa.
I work as Santa at the Valley Fair Mall. I'm seated at the top of a double stairway so that my elves can lead the children up one side and go down the other. I think the decorations are older than I am—dusty snowflakes and snarls of white lights abound. Oblivious to the stale atmosphere, the children, in excitement or fear, come up and anxiously sit on my lap. Some kids are screaming; their parents try to pacify them in the face of this bearded stranger. The photographer only adds to the mayhem, but the store insists that he get each child on film for the parents. I don't care about the parents. I just want to give each child a magic moment. In the case of crying infants, I encourage the mother to sit on my lap, holding her child. That usually works. Somewhere in the madness, I try to have a personal conversation with each child.
"Ho-ho-ho! Merry Christmas, Martha. You remember what I said—do what your mommy says and have a very happy Christmas this year."
"Thank you, Santa," says a cute little four-year-old as she scampers triumphantly from her experience on my lap.
"Ho-ho-ho! And here comes my last little visitor. Well, actually, you're not so little, are you? So, climb up here on my knee and tell me your name."
"My name is Billy. Billy Mitchell," he says as he straddles one knee. "And you would know it if you were the real Santa Claus."
It looks like Billy is about nine or ten, but his furrowed brow and intense concentration depict a boy wiser than his years. His suspicious commentary suggests he isn't the little boy I would have expected. Oh, well, I'm Santa to the end. It's time again to pull out my Santa channeling trick.
"Well, Billy, I am the real Santa Claus. Right now, I'm renting this body from a mortal just like you. His name is Ken Larsen. He lets me use his body every year so that I can talk to all my friends, like you."
"Wait a minute," says Billy with a judgmental scowl. "You're talking about yourself as if you were someone else. I'm too smart for that kind of nonsense."
"It's called channeling," Santa explains with my voice. "Ken puts on my outfit and channels me. Oh, don't be so negative. We're all born with it. Sometimes it's called having an imaginary friend, like you did a few years ago. All children are born with special abilities. They naturally know how to dance, sing, laugh, love, and channel. Usually, they think they have to lose these things to grow up. They learn how to sit still when they feel like dancing or singing. They learn how to hate others for being different. They learn that imaginary friends aren't politically correct. Then, later, they learn again how to sing and dance. Ken was one of the lucky ones who learned again how to channel. Once you get the hang of it, you can channel anyone or anything, dead or alive, real or imaginary. When children channel, it's called having an imaginary friend. When adults do it, they are called mediums or prophets. Ken channels me, and you get to talk to Santa. It's that simple."
Judging from his displeased expression, Billy's suspicion is deepening. With a scowl, he says accusingly, "Sounds to me like you need help."
"I'm sure I do, Billy," I admit. "We all need help. That's why we are all here—to help and to be helped. Actually, I think the sick ones are those who hide their different personalities from each other, or even worse, those who deny their natural channeling to avoid ridicule."
"I think it's all in your imagination," says Billy.
"Of course it is," I respond. "Everything is imaginary. That's why it's fun and harmless. Anyway, Ken's body and his mind are all I've got. He has stuffed his little brain with all kinds of nonsense, like science, history, and politics. There just isn't room for all the names of the six billion children on the earth."
"Isn't that the whole population?"
"Yes, Billy. My, you're very smart for a ten-year-old boy. Yes, that's the whole population of the world, and Santa sees a child in the heart of each one."
"How did you know my age?"
"Oh, just a good guess, I guess."
"You're different from the other Santas."
"You're honest ... crazy, but honest."
"Thank you, Billy."
"The others pretend their fake beard is real," Billy says, as the concerned furrows on his forehead smooth out and he scoots a little closer. "They encourage the other kids to believe in something that can't be real." Billy surprises me with a friendly yank on my beard. "Oh!" he cries. "Your beard doesn't come loose."
"No," I explain, "it's securely tied with a shoelace on the back of my head. You want to hear a funny story? A few years ago, I grew my own beard. It was several inches long, but it wasn't white, so I wore the Santa beard over it. Some kids asked about my beard, and I pulled off the Santa beard, revealing my own beard underneath. Boy, then they knew I was the real Santa for sure."
Billy laughs out loud. "Those other kids sure were stupid to believe Santa is real just because you grew a beard."
"Oh, Billy, don't be so sure. Santa may not be a physical person. But that doesn't mean he isn't real. Santa is also a feeling. He's that feeling of joy you get when you give to another. He's that joy you feel when you do something wonderful and nobody knows, not even your mom. The joy is real, and you can feel Santa in your heart just by following his example and giving to others. And if, like me, you put on his costume, you just might channel that feeling into your own imaginary person. Oh, yes, Santa doesn't need a Social Security number to be real."
"Thank you, Santa. That's a good way to think about it."
The store manager interrupts. "Okay, Santa, we're running a bit late. Give the boy his candy cane and let's go. We've got our own families to get home to, and we don't pay overtime."
"Just another moment, please, Mr. Burton. Billy here hasn't yet made his request. And you can take my paycheck and give it to your favorite charity. Merry Christmas."
Mr. Burton steps down in a huff and dismisses the rest of my staff, leaving me alone with Billy. I think how much I'm going to miss that check. I ignore my financial needs as Ken and return as Santa to Billy.
"Now, Billy, where were we? Oh yeah, let's play a little game. You pretend just for a minute that I'm the real Santa Claus and that I can give you anything you want in the whole world, as long as it does not violate my rules of morality. What would you ask for?"
"Peace on Earth," he says with a mischievous gleam in his eye.
"Wow! You don't mess around, do you? I cannot grant that wish. Let me explain my rules a bit. Yes, I have my own prime directives. First of all, I do no harm. So, you can't ask me to punish your enemies or kill your neighbor's dog. Second, I do not force human behavior. I won't force other people to be peaceful."
"Well, Billy, you see, if I forced people to do good, they would lose the joy of choosing right. Let's see ... let me put it this way. Do you remember when you were trying to learn to play the piano?"
"Yes, how did you know?"
"Just a good guess. Anyway, you made lots of mistakes and your music sounded terrible."
"Sounds like you were there," he says with embarrassment.
"Now, Billy, suppose your mother had sat down next to you and played all the notes for you. The music would have been beautiful, but you would not have learned to play."
"Yeah, she does play pretty good. Do you think her music was as bad as mine when she started?"
"Yes, Billy. That's how we learn—by making mistakes. Oh, I might be able to force everyone to be good, but then nobody would learn how to live. Here's another example: remember last Halloween when you stole some of Sally's candy? Nobody caught you and nobody punished you, but when you saw her cry you felt very bad. You learned two beautiful lessons. First, you learned how much you really love Sally. Then, you learned that you feel bad when you hurt someone you love. You couldn't learn those important lessons in living if someone always forced you to be good."
"Wow, Santa! You're right. It does hurt when I do bad," Billy said with enthusiasm. Then the suspicion returned to his face. "How did you know I stole the Halloween candy, and how did you know Sally's name?"
"Just another lucky guess. Don't worry, Billy. Your secret is safe with Santa. That's another one of my rules. I keep your secrets because I respect your free agency."
"Free agency?" asks Billy.
"Yes, free agency—the right to make your own choices," I respond. "Even when you are hurting others, I respect your free agency for two very important reasons. First, if I forced you to choose what I think is right, I would be stealing from you the blessings of choosing good by yourself. Second, only when I allow your free agency do I have a right to demand that you allow mine."
"Goodness!" says Billy. "This is really big. So, you are saying when I force others, I give them permission to force me. Is it the same as when I hit someone? That gives them permission to hit me?"
"Yes, exactly," I say. "That's a secret to life. You can't be free if you don't let others be free. Now, your mother has waited long enough. You are free to take these five candy canes home and give them to Sally. Tell her you took her Halloween candy and that you're sorry. Then, you will discover how wonderful you feel when you do good to someone. In fact, Billy, you feel even more wonderful if they don't deserve it. That's right. If you can love someone and do good for them even when they are hurting you, you will have special power. I'm not saying to let people hurt you. I'm saying to love them even when they hurt you. Then you will see how good you feel when you do. Don't love your enemies because you fear God. Love your enemies because it is a secret path to personal power and happiness. And Billy, it's even better if they don't know it's you. That's why people use Santa's name when giving Christmas presents."
Billy ponders silently while stroking his lips.
Suddenly, I scream through Santa's voice, "Oh my, Billy! Look at the time. I've got to go. I need to return this body to Ken so he can go visit his girlfriend. And I've still got to hear what he wants for Christmas!"
Billy pockets his candy, but his smile looks suspicious.
Without pondering his motives, I continue, "Oh yes, and one more thing, Billy. You did ask for peace on Earth, didn't you? Well, here's a secret for peace within your own personal world. Just make sure, from now on, that everything you say and do is perfectly in agreement with what you really believe. That will put peace in your heart. And, as far as peace on Earth goes, here is a magical candy cane of peace." Billy's eyes sparkle with curiosity as he accepts the special confection. "Keep it separate from the others you are going to give Sally. When you get home, break this candy cane into two pieces. Take one piece outside and place it on the ground. Then, you will have your piece on Earth. Ho-ho-ho! Merry Christmas, Billy," I say as a Santa who can't help closing with a pun. "You've been wonderful, and I've got to run."
"Bye, Santa," says Billy with a laugh at my silly joke after such a serious discussion for such a youngster. As he leaves, I sense a sinister motive behind his suspicious smile.
Chapter TwoSanta's Big Gift
The red bag over my shoulder is full of presents for my girlfriend, Sandy. She's a beauty. I don't know what she sees in a fifty-eight-year-old, portly Santa wannabe. She lives on the top floor of a very old apartment building. I hear Santa's bells jingling as I trod up the six flights of stairs. Ding-dong. I ring her doorbell while catching my breath. She opens the door, and I'm reminded again how beautiful she is. Her flowing blonde hair is over her shoulders, and she has a body that makes any man happy to see her. I drop my bag as she showers me with hugs and kisses. She objects to the Santa beard, but I want to give her my presents while I'm still Santa. I bring my mind back from my hopes for a reward in the bedroom as we sit on the couch to exchange gifts. She's crazy about jewelry, so my first gift is a diamond bracelet. Although it is relatively cheap from the mall department store, it still took me six months to save up the cash. Sandy makes a bigger fuss than the gift is worth, probably to encourage future giving.
Sandy hands me a small box. It's obviously from that Egyptian shop in the mall. I open it to reveal a golden cartouche—an oval medallion imprinted with hieroglyphs. It's about an inch wide and two inches long. It is attached to a beautiful gold chain. Sandy is so excited to explain it to me. "It's your name!" she exclaims. "See? Kenneth Rex Larsen. The Egyptology lady was happy to explain your name to me. Here are my notes. K is a flat bowl with a ring handle. I think in ancient Egypt, it was an oil lamp, meaning that you bring light. For me, it's Santa's bowl full of jelly with those cute love handles." She tickles my love handle and gets a chuckle out of me. I tuck my shirt back in under my Santa suit as she smiles.
"Okay, okay," I laugh. "I prefer to bring light. I'm sure there are others with a K who don't have so much jelly. Ho-ho-ho!"
Sandy gets more serious. "The next letter was probably pronounced as A and is represented by an eagle. In my mind, it means you fly higher than any other bird. In the Egyptian language, the short E sound is automatically inserted between adjacent consonants, and it is probably the correct sound before the TH. The letter N is represented in two ways: the wavy line, signifying water or expanse, and the red crown of the north. I think it means you rule over many waters. Finally, the TH is a pair of fire tongs and means possession. You own something. You own Kenn. But if you put an extra E sound between the N's, like the Egyptians would, and pronounce the first E like an A, you get Kanen, or the land of Canaan. That's right. In Egyptian, your first name means 'owner or inhabitant of Canaan,' 'Canaaneth,' or 'Canaanite.'"
"So, I'm from Canaan, am I?"
"I'm sure you have ancestors who were, don't you?"
"No doubt. I suspect that of just about every European."
Sandy sounds like she's reading from an encyclopedia, "Your middle name, Rex, is a Latinized version of Ra, the sun god, so they inscribed your cartouche with Ra holding the scepter of authority and wearing the sun disk and the sacred cobra on his head. It means you bless others with your bright wisdom, and you rule like the mighty cobra. It also means you bring together the round yin and the straight yang."
"Right, and I'm sure you got all this from the store clerk," I say with a laugh as I brush a wisp of hair from her forehead.
"Shush. I'm telling it my way. I've been studying this stuff for a week, so you better believe me. Your last name is really fun. Rather than translate the letters directly into Egyptian, the store lady said that in Norwegian, Larsen means 'the son of Lars.' In Egyptian, to be the son of, or born of, is symbolized by those three lines that come together, like the end of the devil's pitchfork. It's pronounced mes, and it's part of the 'ms' in Ramses, meaning the son of Ra. The 'mos' in Moses represents the son of the nameless god."
"'Lars' was very interesting. Look, if you read it backwards, it's S–Ra–L, obviously intended by your Norwegian ancestors as code for Israel. The S is a bar with two little vertical lines in the middle, representing a bolt or fastener."
Now, she acts the part of a professor lecturing to her associate professor.
Excerpted from PEACE ON EARTH by Kenneth Rex Larsen Copyright © 2011 by Dr. Kenneth Rex Larsen. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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