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Friday, December 6, 2013

Advent Journey Day 6

Today is the feast of St. Nicholas.  St. Nicholas had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus.  Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. His actual home is on the southern coast of Modern Day Turkey in a town called Myra. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man.  I've been lucky enough to visit there.
Some Christians wonder how to incorporate Santa Claus into their family traditions.  Some perhaps feel uncomfortable perpetuating a myth with their children while others don't want to bring too much of secular society into the celebration.  For myself, I think you can honor the story of the Christ child, while at the same time enjoying the delightful joy that belief in Santa Claus can be for many.  Eventually, we all come to understand the truth about Santa Claus and hopefully as we grow older, also embrace in more profound ways the gift of the Christ-child rather than just the gifts under the tree.  As with most things, balance is good.
I have several Santa Clauses in my home.  Each one has a story behind it.  
These jolly 'ol fellows are all from Sweden.  Many were gifts that I have received through the years and I love to think of the folks who gave them to me.
These guys are from different parts of our world.  The one with skis, on the far left is from Norway.  The small one in the middle is from Russia.  The second smallest one is from Denmark.  I don't remember when we got the big Santa candy bowl, but I have a hunch it's made in China but purchased in Sweden!
But perhaps my most favorite Santa of all is when I get to embody him!  This is a Santa Suit that a dear friend gave to us our second year in Sweden.  It has gotten more enjoyable use than perhaps any other gift!  We love bringing it out for various occasions and I look forward to wearing it Monday night at my annual book club white elephant gift exchange!
Whether we like it or not, Christmas will likely always be a blend of the sacred and the secular.  It's fun to sing about Santa and to enjoy the spirit of joyful giving that he brings.  But it's also appropriate to remember the spirit of St. Nicholas, who was a generous person, cared for children, and looked out for the poor.  Sounds like Jesus to me.  Learn to embrace the true story of St. Nicholas and you'll see how easy it is to fit Santa Claus into your family Christmas traditions.