Friday, December 6, 2013

The Counter-cultural Message of St. Nicholas

"I want people to thank God, not me! Remember, the greatest gift is God's love. I am just happy to give His love to others".
The above quote was my favorite part of a post I recently published. It's attributed to St. Nicholas and although he may not have said it, verbatim, it nicely condenses the actions of his that we find so desirable. My previous post, Santa and the Elf on the Shelf - What are They Teaching Our Children? was well received and one of my most popular to date. For the most part, people agreed with the sentiments I tried to convey: putting focus on the spiritual rather than on the imaginative secular. With this in mind, I'm sharing a few ideas to get us there:

Imagination is such a great tool - why not steer it toward something (or someone) who really exists? St. Nicholas fills the bill well and has many of the characteristics that should portray the 'spirit of Christmas'. One of my Facebook friends, who steers away from Santa, shared something said by her son that I thought was so sweet. He was very curious about how St. Nicholas would come to their house. When Mom asked what he thought, he replied, "Jesus will probably fly him down from Heaven". She didn't scatter pixie dust or tell him tales, instead her son was able to imagine something mysterious about someone who is real.
Accentuate the positive. This is so easy to do, if we just live out our beliefs. Instead of only having Rudolph and Santa books and movies, why not have many more with an Advent, Christmas, or Epiphany theme in your collection? Put more emphasis on the real stories, vs. the pretend ones, and you'll be doing much to enforce the beautiful reality of this season.
Practice the 'little ways'. So many wonderful saints have given us examples of how to do great things - one small step at a time. One example might be to light your Advent Wreath when you pray, eat, or read a book with your children. These little touches tell them this is an important season, without you having to say a word!
Artist: Elisabeth Ivanovsky
Think of others. As the quote above references, doing good works is about loving God; it's not about being seen. Why not encourage little acts of kindness - in secret. Talk about how pleasing it is to God, that we love others, without putting emphasis on how it makes us feel. If we empty ourselves of the need for earthly praise, we leave room for God to fill and overflow us with His love.

On this, the feast day of St. Nicholas, let's steer our hearts (and those of our loved ones) back to thanking God, and working for His glory - not ours. Let's remember, the greatest gift is God's love, let's be happy to "give His love to others".

Find an amazing array of information, products, and ideas at the St. Nicholas Center.

Just for fun, here's a photo of the Saint Nicholas cookies I baked: