(photo credit: the St. Nicholas Center)
she is three years old, this daughter-gift of ours.
old enough to start understanding what is going on around her, the bits and pieces of Christmas and Advent and all the hype and even the character set.
Jesus. Santa. Mary. Joseph. Frosty. wisemen and shepherds. elves. bell-ringers.
all mix together in a tapestry of fact and fiction, of reality and story.
sorting it is difficult. being a parent sorting it and shaping your child’s understanding of a most important day and season can be daunting. allow some childhood fantasy? or burst the bubble from the beginning, telling her there is no Santa Claus, knowing that her honest little heart will inadvertently burst another child’s fantasy?
the Christ-child is real, of that there is no question. bringing the season together, sifting the spiritual and commercial, was overwhelming.
until we stumbled on a simple tale told by vegetables. it is no unusual thing to find a Veggie Tales show or movie playing any given day in our home. but I was not expecting this particular tale to grab my attention and heart, shifting the focus of Christmas squarely back to Christ.
Nicholas was a Christian man of some means, orphaned early, and raised by his uncle. he shared his wealth and resources with others in Christ’s name, resting firmly in the knowledge that all he had came from, and subsequently was, God’s. along the way he became the Bishop of Myra, and eventually a saint and pop culture icon.
cuddling our daughter-gift through this story, Christ began a new, or refreshed an old, work in my heart. what if my own giving was influenced by an overflow of gratitude for what God has given? what if I gave because He had?
the shift was almost palpable. the frenetic schedule of the season slowed. the pressure released. what if?
the gift lists changed. the reasoning was different. additional gifts were added. others removed. where might encouragement lie? where might He be asking me to give, to give beyond my list on paper?
a handmade gift or two found its way under the tree, bits that would be treasured for memories evoked and new ones made.
the grace of Christ, His compassion and mercy, to me and each person I come into contact with, was overwhelming.
Nicholas gave because he could not ignore the source of his resource. He gave out of gratitude and love.
the grip of commercialism slipped a bit this year. and I am glad. praying it continues, really.
as for our daughter-gift, there is no longer a discussion of allowing a few years of childhood fantasy with Santa Claus. that also shifted as we watched the vegetable telling of this biography. her earliest teachings about Santa are steeped in reality. and they are taking hold in beautiful ways.
she asks for money to drop into red kettles. toy boxes are culled for bits others might enjoy. a goose figure for a friend with a farm set. a teapot for daddy because he has none of his own. an elf doll for me, its silly smile meant to bring cheer and make me laugh. simple gifts, given from her own bounty. because Jesus and mommy and daddy love her.
there are smiles and waves as she spies the mall Santa or a yard decoration. it makes sense in her world that Baby Jesus and Santa reside on the same lawn. and in a way, she is right. strip the commercial Santa away and Nicholas remains, a man who continually pointed others to the Christ-child and His ultimate Gift.
may we do the same.