Friday, December 6, 2013

First Friday of Advent: Feast of St. Nicholas

“I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.” – Psalm 27:13

In these Advent weeks, we are overrun with images that can fill us with expectation about Christmas and the holiday season. In addition to commercials advertizing the latest and greatest technologies and gifts for the year, there are also images of what “perfect family” gatherings look like. As the Christmas cards and newsletters roll in, the temptation to focus on the ways our lives are lacking become even more pronounced. The holidays can be filled with profound experiences of gratitude and a sense of being loved. Yet, they can also be filled with anxiety over unpaid bills, expectations around gift giving, and stress over balancing various family obligations.

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas, a fourth century bishop of Myra (in present day Turkey), who is best known for being at the root of many of our traditions around Santa Claus. St. Nicholas was well known for his love of God and God’s people, particularly the poor. Legends tell us that he saved a poor man’s three daughters from a life of prostitution by secretly providing for their dowries, even going so far as to drop the money down the chimney in order to avoid being identified. When I feel pressured to do so much as Christmas fast approaches, St. Nicholas is a wonderful reminder to pause and see the “bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.” St. Nicholas was not a bishop who looked for a Church of shoulds and perfection, but a servant who saw the real needs of the people around him and strived to meet them where he could.

By keeping our focus on God rather than on our own limitations, we remain open to how God invites us to respond more fully in our daily reality. Is there some way I am invited to offer a small gift of self-sacrifice or an anonymous act of generosity today in honor of St. Nicholas? Am I being moved to let go of some expectations this Advent in order to keep my focus more fully on God?

Reflected by Jen Coito

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