I have some alarming news to report: one of my second cousins is an elf who works at the North Pole, and he recently sent me an email stating he is worried Santa won’t be ready for Christmas this year.

My elf cousin said that the usually jolly St. Nick is depressed and has not been able to read all the letters sent from children on time. Because of this, the assembly line at the North Pole has slowed down.

Santa is down, my cousin said, partly because his basement flooded a month ago. Global warming caused some ice caps up at the North Pole to melt, and the area’s antiquated sewer system just couldn’t hold all the water runoff from the shrinking glaciers.

What’s more, Santa’s sump pump burned out, and the cost of having a new one flown in from Anchorage by a bush pilot cost so much that he and the Mrs. Claus hit the emotional skids when they got the bill.

Adding insult to injury, Santa happens to be a Bears fan, and he saw Chicago’s playoff hopes get flushed down the toilet when Jay Cutler broke his thumb a week ago.

On top of that he knows about the flooding in Thailand, the aftermath of the earthquake in Japan and the famine in Somalia. But those natural disasters, the Bears’ misfortunes, and the water in his basement, combined, didn’t spoil his Christmas spirit.

No, my cousin said Santa isn’t shouting “Ho, ho, ho,” much these days because he knows why the world is in the shape it’s in. And this knowledge is a great burden for him to carry.

He knows about Congress’s inability to make any progress toward mitigating the effects of the Great Recession. He knows about the greed of the 1 percent and the apathy of the 99 percent. He is aware of our tendency to whine about the glass being half empty, and, subsequently, of our inability, at times, to be truly thankful.

He’s down, too, because he feels that what he works on all year long doesn’t have as much of an impact on people. It used to be, he confided in Mrs. Claus, that an orange, a popcorn ball and a Superman comic book in a stocking hung by the chimney would make kids beam with happiness.

Santa, his wife and the elves don’t mind the work. What bothers them is that their labor doesn’t seem to be making a difference.ÊIt’s, like, you work at climbing a mountain all year and at the end of 12 months you’re further from the top than you were when you began.

One morning, after sleeping in till 8 a.m., St. Nick said to Mrs. Claus, “You know, we’ve had a good run all these years. Maybe we should just admit that what we do isn’t working anymore. Maybe the key to letting in the Christmas spirit is no longer in the video games, Barbie dolls and candy we bring.”

“But how would people all around the world get the Christmas spirit if there were no presents under the tree on Christmas morning?” asked Mrs. Claus.

“That, my love,” he replied, “is the question.”

Keep up with new postings on my blog at oakpark.com/spiritualityethicsreligion

Tom Holmes has worked in Forest Park since 1982 as a pastor and as a writer. He is grateful that his children grew up in this town and finds inspiration in the personal relationships he has developed with so many.