St. Nicholas and his compassion for the poor.
I'm up early this morning thinking about a 17 year old girl in Kenya, orphaned, dependent on the care of her grandmother who occasionally works as a farm helper with the potential to earn up to $19 a month. Poverty is very real for her. I even had a dream last night that I was looking at this new, spectacular American shopping mall with a friend and I broke down in tears, telling the friend that it was impossible for me to enjoy it when I knew people in the world were living in abject poverty. This is reorienting my life. How can I get the big electric fireplace that I wanted from Costco for Christmas? I don't even want the fireplace anymore, I want the girl. I want to sow that money into Compassion to give that girl food, healthcare, education, a hope, a future and the knowledge that Jesus loves her. So, my Christmas list just changed.
This all stemmed from our evening last night. Remembering St Nicholas is something we do every year. I have always told my kids that Santa isn't real yet I struggled making the link for them between all the Santa stuff they were exposed to and the real meaning, until a few years ago my friend Denise told me about their tradition of celebrating St Nicholas. It has become an important evening in our December calendar to set the tone for Christmas that is centered around Jesus and his love for the poor of the earth. We read the story of St Nicholas, learn about his compassion for the poor, the kids usually color a picture of him and we browse through the Samaritans Purse catalog choosing gifts to "give to Jesus". This year Isaac also got to choose a child to sponsor through the Compassion International program. As a fun bonus, the kids get to put their shoes outside the door to see if St Nicholas brings them a present - they got superhero footie pj's and they were very excited. By the way, since we were celebrating a day early (we had something else planned tonight), Luke was wondering how St Nicholas knew to come by a day early. I will probably let the mystery linger for a few more years. It's fun. What I really want them to get out of the evening, however, is that Jesus loves the poor and the very best present we could give him is to care for those that he loves. What I wasn't expecting is that I would also start feeling more of his heart for the poor too. I'm grateful for the transforming of a heart.
Anyway, it's a really wonderful tradition and I encourage you to try it with your family.