Saturday, December 05, 2009

Advent 7 : St Nicholas' Eve

If you have children, go out and buy a bag of chocolate coins for each child. Get your children to leave out a shoe when they go to bed tonight, and place the bag of coins there to be found in the morning...because the morning brings with it the Feast of St Nicholas.

Nikolaos was bishop of Myra (modern-day Turkey) in the C4th. He was suspected to be behind a wide spate of anonymous acts of kindness, in particular leaving bags of gold coins in shoes left by the door. It would appear that his motivation was redeeming the poor from the consequences of poverty – a practical expression of the loving action of God in coming into our world to redeem us from the consequences of our slavery to the satan, or accuser: sin, and death.

Nikolaos became patron saint of sailors and merchants, and was carried by Dutch traders to Amsterdam, where he became Sinterklaas; and from there on to New Amsterdam (later, New York), where he became Santa Claus; and to England, where he became Father Christmas.

In response to God’s redemptive gift to us – the coming of Jesus – Nikolaos started a tradition of redemptive gift-giving. Over the years, this has been covered by layers of giving gifts for other reasons. But that redemptive quality has been rediscovered, through a range of fair-trade gifts, and gifts that go to someone other than the recipient – see Oxfam unwrapped, Traidcraft, and Present Aid for ideas.

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