Today, December 6, is the Feast Day of St. Nicholas, and a friend of mine, R, came up with the brilliant idea of throwing a St. Nicholas Day party. Actually, she’s calling it a “Give & Learn, Cocoa & Cookies Party.” Why is this such a brilliant idea?
Well, first read this, which is what R put on the invitation:
“Aside from the obvious disparities between Saint Nicholas and the secular Santa Claus, perhaps the most poignant difference between them can be seen in the nature of the gifts they give. While Santa has his bundle of toys, the gift that Saint Nicholas gives is nothing short of freedom from poverty and desperation. The life of Saint Nicholas is an example of faith made flesh in actions of true charity” (God with Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, p. 40).
St. Nicholas is worth finding out more about, if you don’t know very much about him. The “gifts” he gave–anonymously–were not meant to reward (or punish) folks for being nice (or naughty). He wasn’t making a list nor checking it twice. He wasn’t giving to cheer people up, to make them happy.
On the contrary, his generosity was directed toward those in extremely desperate situations, not those of us who are snug in our warm houses with stockings hung by the fire and gifts under our pristinely decorated trees. The folks he reached out to in the fourth century were those who were desperate, who would otherwise be sold into slavery or prostitution, who would otherwise have no chance at living. We have a hard time imagining what this means, and R’s party idea is a good start to help us understand.
The “Give” portion of the party refers to R’s request to bring household items and other goods to donate to our own downtrodden and desperate here in our community. (We’ll work with the Hospitality House and the A.M.E.N. House to get the items distributed.) The “Learn” portion of the party refers to a craft and book-reading R has organized for children and adults to learn the “real” story about St. Nicholas. And, of course, the “Cocoa & Cookies” portion is self-explanatory.
Now, obviously it is too late for you to steal this idea and throw your own St. Nicholas party, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Why not seek out an organization serving the underserved in your community? Look them up on the internet and read about them. Awareness of the problem is a good first step. Then consider what it might mean for you, as we prepare for Christ’s coming amidst the parties and gift-exchanges, to give something, to give yourself, to someone in a desperate situation.