The Gifts of St. Nicholas
As a boy, I remember one Christmas when my mom woke me up in the middle of the night to show me Santa Claus had come to our home. I remember the blurry-eyed, twinkle light illuminated living room filled with toys, presents and decorations. Magic had taken place while I slept. That Christmas will always be one of my most special. While I don’t remember the gifts I received that year, the real excitement was waking up to my home, having been transformed into a warm place, filled with love and light.
Time and experience have made me more jaded. I don’t tend to see Christmas through the same lens as I did when I was young. Gatherings take on a new charged anxiety that comes with interfamily friction, politics and belief systems. If I am honest, I would say that I love Christmas, but I don’t always like Christmas.
However, having a child has changed my relationship with Christmas once again. I want my son to experience that same sense of magic and wonder. I want him to be overwhelmed by warmth, love and light.
I know that I am not alone. Regardless of whether families celebrate Christmas, parents want their children to grow up in a just world that allows them the chance to reach their full potential.
This December 6, we celebrate the 80th anniversary of Episcopal Relief & Development – eighty years of seeking to serve Christ in all persons and striving to respect the dignity of every human being. That’s quite an accomplishment – even more sobering when one reflects on the millions of lives touched by those who have worked together for lasting change.
Our anniversary day is made even more special as it is also the celebration of St. Nicholas’ Feast Day.
As my wife and I have begun to discuss the traditions we want to establish for our son, we have been thinking about the history of Santa Claus, more specifically the person of St. Nicholas, who gave his time, talent and treasure to help others, especially children.
St. Nicholas’ ministry resonates with how we want our son to be in this world. We want him to experience Christmas not through the act of receiving but in giving to others.
The ONE THOUSAND DAYS OF LOVE campaign was developed to assist Episcopal Relief & Development in expanding our work with children — to help all kids have a chance to reach their full potential, to feel those ever-important moments of warmth, love and light. We do this by helping communities nurture children to their full potential through our work and partnerships. We see the campaign as an opportunity to help others expand their individual capacity to touch lives exponentially in the communities in which we serve.
Like those of St. Nicholas, we deliver simple yet transformative gifts – basic necessities and, most importantly, nurture to caregivers and families, providing children and their communities the best opportunity for success.
This St. Nicholas Day, my wife and I will be encouraging our son, and ourselves, to become more like St. Nicholas by choosing to make “Nicholas deeds” – simple acts of kindness – a routine part of our daily practice.
We encourage all of you to do the same at home, in your communities and for the children of the world. We are all better when we share love because love resonates and reverberates across any divide and brings us all closer to the example of Christ, loving our neighbors as ourselves.
If you want to learn more about the ONE THOUSAND DAYS OF LOVE campaign, St. Nicholas, or how you and your family can make a difference this Advent, please visit our toolkit to see all of our excellent new Advent resources. Also, please take a moment to listen to our St. Nicholas Day sermon from Rob Radtke, President & CEO of Episcopal Relief & Development, as he talks about St. Nicholas’ life of compassion and service and our call to serve others.
The first photo is from the St. Nicholas Center, a virtual center where people can learn about St. Nicholas. Credit: Ellie Riemersma; Roukes & Erhrt; Baarn, the Netherlands.