Some years ago “Saturday Night Live” did a little skit called “How Hanukkah Harry Saved Christmas” and it actually had a nice message in it. 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.
Like Santa, Harry has a prominent beard, except his is thin and gray, and he wears a blue and white cap and carries a blue and white sack with an embroidered Mennorah on it. He takes off into the air with his simple horse drawn wagon and chants: “On Mersha, on Hershel, on Schlomo”, and lands with a thud on the roof of the first family he’s to visit just as little Susie and Tommy have snuck down stairs to see if Santa has arrived.
They hide behind the Christmas tree to watch for Santa’s arrival. Harry makes it down the chimney, looks for the Christmas tree, but doesn’t see the children, then finds a glass of luke warm milk on the mantle, which he intends to put back in the fridge before it spoils. Tommy and Susie see him and shout, “Santa!” and scare him half to death. “You nearly gave me a coronary”, he exclaims. But he recovers and gives Susie a bright package which she opens. She’s expecting a doll, but instead she finds a pair of socks, not just one pair, but eight pairs of socks. “Where are the toys?”, they ask, and he gives them a dreidel, a Jewish top, and some gold coins with chocolate inside.
This is not quite what they expected. Tommy looks at Hanukkah Harry and says to him, “Your not Santa Claus. You don’t have a red and white suit. And you’re not fat and rolly polly like Santa.” And so Hanukkah Harry tells him the truth, that he’s filling in for Santa who is sick. All of a sudden Susie has a moment of truth and revelation. She exclaims, “If Hanukkah Harry is helping Santa, then that means that deep down Christians and Jews are pretty much the same and we don’t have to be jealous of one another.”
Just then, in a flash, Santa shows up and says that little Susie’s moment of truth has cured him of his illness and he can now take over the work of Christmas from Hanukkah Harry. He gives her a present, which she opens, and she gets the doll she wanted, while her brother gets a pellet gun. Hanukkah Harry looks a little crest fallen so Susie gives him a hug and says, “We love you Hanukkah Harry. If it wasn’t for you we wouldn’t have had Christmas at all.”
That’s quite a message for a Saturday Night Live parody of Christmas and Hanukkah. “If it wasn’t for you, Hanukkah Harry, we wouldn’t have had Christmas at all.” You see, if it wasn’t for the Jewish religious and prophetic heritage, with its longing for love and justice, we would never have had a Jesus of Nazareth who drew so heavily upon that heritage to define his message and to articulate his vision of the Kingdom of Heaven come on earth. Without Hanukkah, meaning the Jewish prophetic and religious heritage, we wouldn’t have had Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, who has been called the Prince of Peace, the very term of which was first uttered by a Hebrew prophet named Second Isaiah.
God Bless and GO CATS!
Rev. Scott Murphy is the Pastor at the First Christian Church in Russellville.