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St Johns Southgate

14 Dec 2014

‘Do you Hear What I Hear?’ ‘O Come all ye Faithful!’ ‘It’s Christmas time in the city!’ From radio to department stores, the sounds of Christmas music fill the air.

Most people have one of two responses: joyful smiles or roll-the-eyes in annoyance. Some embrace the season with enthusiasm, others exhaustion. But once we get through the bulk of preparations, most of us are glad to participate in celebrations, large and small, warmed with friends, family, food, and good cheer.

Christmas in our culture has two particularly prominent characters: Jesus and Santa. Despite their own jovial and peace-making personalities, we sometimes position them as adversaries. If you have children, perhaps you and your family have had to discuss the roles of Santa and Jesus in your household. To believe in Santa, or not? That is the question, it would seem.

Of course, as Christians, our faith is placed in the Christ-child, the true gift of Christmas, but that does not automatically prevent us from learning of the saints who have gone before us.

The story of Santa is best understood in its entirety, dating back to fourth-century Turkey. A bishop of the church by the name of Nicholas was a man of deep prayer and great generosity. He particularly had compassion for the poor. Bishop Nicholas was known to give secret gifts to families in need, always directing all gratitude to God alone.

In one story about Nicholas, he knew a man who could not afford the financial arrangement for his three daughters to marry. So Nicholas threw three purses filled with gold through the chimney of their home during the night. His gift enabled the girls to marry and avoid unemployment and poverty.

Nicholas, who became known as St Nicholas, has since inspired people to give anonymously to the poor. This seems like something worth believing, and the church celebrates his legacy on December 6.

The greatest gift we celebrate at Christmas is Jesus, who comes to us all year round and lives among us. Jesus comes to all people, of every socio-economic class, rich and poor; of every age, young and old; and of every height, short and tall.

Jesus gives the same generous and abundant gift — himself — to all people. He gives us life, love, and salvation because of and in spite of our worst behaviour. Jesus knows we mess up and he meets us there and loves us still. Jesus is not only the focus of the season, but of our lives.

This is the message of Christmas that has been proclaimed by many over the centuries, but perhaps none other to the extent, than St Nicholas, who demonstrated Christ’s love to the world around him in a very practical way.

In this Christmas season, may you experience the all surpassing generosity and love of God in Jesus, the baby born at Bethlehem.

Pastor Ian

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