“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic His giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.” ~ St. Nicholas of Myra
Tell me, is there a person that does not know about Santa Claus, Papai Noel, Viejo Pascuero, Dun Che Lao Ren, Julemanden, Joulupukki, Père Noël, Weihnachtsmann, Mikulas, Babbo Natale, Hoteiosho, Julenissen, Święty Mikołaj, Pai Natal, Papa Noel, Mos Craciun, Ded Moroz, or Noel Baba? Is not each legend of the great man an incarnation about someone who bears gifts to the world? Does not the telling of the story fill a soul with joy and hope? I certainly hope it does.
Today is the memorial of St. Nicholas. He was born in Turkey around the year 280. When he was quite young, both of his parents passed away. He reportedly used his inheritance to help the poor and the sick. After he became a bishop, he continued helping. Legend tells the tale about a time when a man had three daughters. He was too poor to pay dowries for them to be married and was even considering selling them into servitude. On three separate occasions, Nicholas stole into their house at night and left money so that the father could afford dowries and allow them to be married. Another legend tells of how Nicholas came to the aid of three men who were wrongfully imprisoned and sentenced to death.
From there grew stories of a mythical figure who went around gifting people — the poor, the sick, and the disadvantaged especially — without a concern for recognition or thanks. This figure grew into the legend of Santa Claus and has been retold in one form or another throughout the ages.
The bishop, Nicholas, embodied Christ in all that he said and did. Because of that, the people whose lives he touched experienced not only the help of Nicholas but the loving hand of Christ. With a word or an action, we mark people’s lives for good or for ill. Advent asks us to focus on doing good, rather than ill, in our daily lives and to do it without the hope of recognition or thanks. That is what Jesus did for us and that is what He asks us to do for one another.
FAITH ACTION: Let this season of Advent prepare you to be an even more cheerful giver so that you may be more like Christ.