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

    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
    12/17/2010 6:20:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments

Rick Smoot
I always appreciate reading a story concerning a fellow BCH alum. Thanks, Jim, for all you do and representing us so well. Merry Christmas.
12/20/2010 8:48:26 PM

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