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Dyer’s Santa shares real Christmas message
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
December 17, 2010
6 MIN READ TIME

Dyer’s Santa shares real Christmas message

Dyer’s Santa shares real Christmas message
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
December 17, 2010

Jim Dyer’s frosty beard, furry hat, red suit, twinkling eyes

and easy “ho, ho, ho” immediately identify him as Santa Claus in the dozens of

holiday settings where he plays that role each year.

Even without the suit he can hardly walk down the street

without people stopping to stare, whisper and point. But it is Dyer’s heart for

Jesus that enables him to uniquely meld the symbol of modern holiday excess

with the spiritual, deep flowing origins of Christmas that celebrate the birth

of Christ.

Some of the men who like Dyer, 64, “become” Santa each

November and December, are Christians whose red suits open doors into parties,

special events and homes to share the real meaning of Christmas.

“Our role as a Christian Santa is to tell them the

background of St. Nicholas and be sure the messenger does not overshadow the

message of Christmas,” Dyer said. “We are celebrating Jesus’ birthday.”

The generosity of the original Saint Nicholas and his love

for children are the basis from which the modern, mythical Santa Claus arose.

Nicholas was born in the third century to wealthy parents who died when he was

young. He sold his inheritance to help the needy, the sick and the suffering

and eventually became Bishop of Myra in what is modern Turkey.

The legend of Saint Nicholas has been adjusted to the many

cultures that adopted it, until today, most churches would not consider having

a Santa help them celebrate Jesus’ birth.

This, Dyer said, despite the historical truth that Nicholas

was “a pillar of the church, who embodied sacrificial giving and was a defender

of youth.” Dyer said more churches are named after St. Nicholas than any person

other than Jesus.

Dyer, who grew up at the Baptist Children’s Homes’ Kennedy

Home campus, is a retired Army helicopter pilot and a former real estate agent,

mortgage broker and corporate chaplain. He was ordained at age 55 by Bay Leaf

Baptist Church in Wake Forest.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Jim Dyer, also known as Santa, checks the list of some children he saw through the Wounded Warrior program at Ft. Bragg. See video.

“The Lord has been good to me,” said Dyer, whose rosy life

has plenty of thorns. “I know it’s not theologically sound but it seems like I

have a greater joy and the Lord loves me more than others. I have a greater joy

than so many other Christians I know that it seems they were weaned on a sour

pickle.”

Despite being abandoned by his father and turned over by a

mother “with no marketable skills” to be raised at Kennedy Home and despite

tours in the battlefields of Vietnam, and despite job and family issues that

would drive others to distraction, Dyer’s joy is irrepressible.

Santa from the heart

It is that twinkling eye and genuine love for the task that

makes Dyer a busy Santa.

“Being a Santa comes from the heart,” he said. “You have to

have the right expression on your face and in your eyes to let children know

you love them, and are listening to them and they are special.”

At every opportunity Dyer asks children, “Do you know why we

celebrate Christmas?” In private home functions his goal is to be able to pray

with the family, and to read the gospel story of Christmas aloud.

Dyer, whose beard is naturally salt and pepper, shaves it

off by New Year’s Day because it takes a lot of work to keep it bleached white

and groomed.

Photo by thewakeforestsanta.com

Santa in his finest suit.

Typically he stops shaving after July 4 festivities, and he

has a flowing beard by Nov. 1.

“There comes a point when it’s hard to manage,” he said.

“Imagine trying to eat with this much hair on your face, and it’s white. I

have to drink my coffee out of a sipper cup in the morning or it looks like I

have a dirty mouth.”

He has been playing Santa for 35 years. It is not uncommon

for him to have three and four engagements a day in December, but he makes time

for special events for soldiers and children, especially for those who are ill

or under stress. On Dec. 9 he passed up several paying gigs to be Santa at a

Wounded Warriors event at Fort Bragg. “I really get a lot of joy out of

bringing joy to others,” said the member of Christ Baptist Church in Raleigh.

“It energizes me.”

Tough questions

If a child asks Dyer if he is the “real Santa,” he looks

over his glasses and asks, “What do you think?”

Children don’t reason like an adult, so if they see several

Santas on a shopping trip, they simply understand Santa can be in more than one

place at a time, and that he has a lot of helpers.

Even without his fur trim and red suit, Dyer looks like

Santa the moment he steps out of the salon with his beard and hair freshly

bleached.

“I’m not self conscious about it until I look up and see a

couple kids staring at me and I put my finger to my lips and say ‘Shhhh.’”

To teach children to limit their selfish wishes, sometimes

when a child recites a list longer than his arm, Dyer will smile and say, “My

word that’s a lot of stuff. Is that all for you?”

He says he might have to review a list of that length. More

difficult are the children’s requests for healing a pet or family member.

Dyer has learned from a fellow Santa to carry a book that

the child can assume is the “naughty and nice” book. But in the back are the

pages where Santa writes the things he is going to pray about.

He will tell the child of those pending prayers, which leads

to more understanding of the spiritual aspects of this special season.

“It’s a pretty exciting time to bring the fun of being Santa

and the real joy of Christmas together,” said Santa … err … Dyer.

Visit Dyer’s web site: www.thewakeforestsanta.com.