Here’s the thing with preachers. We come across more stories than we can use in sermons. That’s what happened this week as I read Adam Hamilton’s Faithful: Christmas Through the Eyes of Joseph in preparation for Sunday’s sermon. Since I couldn’t use the story in Sunday’s sermon, I wanted to share it in through my blog post. Here goes.
“Centuries ago there was a follower of Jesus who lived in Asia Minor-what today is Turkey. He had a heart for those in need; he was selfless and kind. According to one legend, as he approached Christmas he wanted to find a way to celebrate rightly the birth of the One who gave himself for the world. After some reflection, he settled on an idea: Find needy children in his community and do something to help them. In this he would follow the tradition of the magi, who had brought gifts to help Joseph’s poor family that first Christmas. You may not know the story, but you know the name: Nicholas, who eventually became a bishop in the church and after his death was canonized as St. Nicholas.
In a time when we struggle to buy gifts for people who don’t need anything, and when our children or grandchildren are often exhausted or bored by the end of Christmas, having opened so many gifts, it’s important to remember the example of St. Nicholas, the inspiration behind our gift exchanges. Perhaps as we celebrate Christmas, we need to reclaim his emphasis on giving to children who are not our own, children who are most in need.”
As you prepare for Christmas, you might want to consider a tradition we’ve adopted in our family. Each family member gets to choose a ministry we want to have other members give to and that replaces the gifts they would have given. (Truthfully, some small gifts still are given—but not many.) Now that I know how Christmas gift giving really got started, I love our tradition even more. So now I know that we’re more a St. Nicholas family than a Santa Claus family, and I’m good with that.