Second Monday in Advent: St. Nicholas Day

Today we set aside our regular Advent devotions to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. When the boys were young we decided that we wanted to make our Advent and Christmas festivities a little different (I don't think we really fleshed this out until the Christmas right after Nils turned one--and if I remember right, it was within the day of that we decided how we were going to celebrate). We didn't want the commercialism and greed that often accompanies Christmas to be the main focus. We decided instead of having Santa visit our house on Christmas that we would celebrate St. Nicholas Day (and we're not saying that what we do is a model to follow--it's simply what we do).

Our main focus in celebrating St. Nicholas Day is to emulate his character of giving to those in need. Currently we do that by packing shoe boxes with little gifts for children around the world (our boxes were going to India this year) for Operation Christmas Child. Nils and I were able to
deliver our boxes today which worked out well. We took time to read a story about St. Nicholas as well as watching the Veggie Tales version of his life and his relation to Santa Claus. We also give the boys one present (it was one to share this year). Through it all we talk about the greatest gift we could ever receive (Jesus, of course) as well as how we are to follow St. Nicholas' example in giving to others (anonymously if possible).

So Santa Claus doesn't visit our house. The boys get one more present from us on Christmas day, as well as some small things in their stocking, but again, we try to focus on the birth of Jesus (for us birthdays are more present-focused as a celebration of the individual) and others and time together as a family.

If you're not familiar with the real St. Nicholas, he was the son of wealthy devout Christians who died when he was young after an epidemic (possibly getting sick from helping the sick). He was raised by an uncle who was a bishop in the church and eventually become a priest and bishop himself. He used his wealth to help others (I couldn't help but point out the parallels of Batman's story with Nicholas' tonight as the boys are familiar with the orphaned Bruce Wayne who used his family's wealth to help others--albeit in a more justice-based manner). There are many stories about Nicholas' good works and miracles (some of them quite fanciful and even grotesque).

The best-known story involves a man with three unmarried daughters, and not enough money to provide them with suitable dowries. This meant that they could not marry, and were likely to end up as prostitutes. Nicholas walked by the man's house on three successive nights, and each time threw a bag of gold in through a window (or, when the story came to be told in colder climates, down the chimney). Thus, the daughters were saved from a life of shame, and all got married and lived happily ever after.

So on this night of Advent, as we celebrate the life of a faithful saint who modeled Jesus' example and teaching to give in secret, we are reminded that we can give joyfully and freely when we are rooted in the joy of the gift Christ has given us.

No comments: