So when you are starting to run a little low on curriculum for your children and are waiting for your next installment of material to come in…
You improvise. Yesterday knowing that somewhere around the 1st of the month people somewhere in the world celebrated St. Nicholas, I decided we would do a little research to find out more about who he was and what he was all about. I knew enough to know that he was a good dude, one we could learn from and model character traits. After gathering some basic information…we did a little scavenger hunt around the compound…looking for clues…learning about his birth place…his history of generosity…and many other fun note-worthy facts about this historical figure.
While all of this was going on and the big kids were gathering information…Caroline and I snuggled and read the FEW Christmas books that I have and we talked about Christmas. She shared that she did not have any special meals on Christmas day, “no mom, just rice and beans.” And when I asked if she had ever had a Christmas present she said, “no mom.” Silence. I was pretty sure I knew the answer but it still saddened me. Not from an aunt or uncle…no presents for Christmas…ever. So I said, “Well, this Christmas would you like a Christmas gift?” Her eyes lit up and she said, “yes.” I asked, “what do you think you would like?” She explained, “I would like a wooden sheep, Mary, and baby Jesus…” and basically went on to described a wooden nativity. I do not know if this is because we had been reading about a wood-carver who carved a nativity, or if this was her hearts’ desire, but I was instantly thrilled because I had purchased over a month ago–not a wooden–but a Ugandan nativity for all my children to enjoy this Christmas. I had been waiting for the right time to present it–and it seemed that sooner rather than later would be appropriate. So, I thought, on the day of St. Nicholas’ death–or the celebration of his life: December 6th, just might be the perfect day to receive the gift.
So in celebration of St. Nicholas’ life and all that we might learn from him–the kids did research and then shared it with the other families in the compound. We then made stockings. Tonight inside the stockings the big kids wrote and stuffed messages to the littles and one another. I placed a letter (or two) in each stocking that spelled the word: NATIVITY. The idea being that they will have to unscramble the letters and then I have a poem that tells them to look around the apartment to find the nativity that is hidden under a towel. (Nick didn’t get the creds…but thought the stockings would be a fun place to leave the letters!) I am SO excited that Caroline will be given–almost exactly what she asked for BEFORE Christmas–and be able to enjoy it all month long!
The truth is…St. Nick was a good dude who it is believed was given an inheritance after his parents died–one that he did not keep for himself. He saved the lives of 3 girls who would have been sold in to “servitude” by paying for their dowries and he saved the life of a man who was sentenced to death by a corrupt government. He later went to prison for 5 years because he refused to worship the Emperor as god. I don’t know him personally–but after more research I realized he really seemed like a good dude. A few of his acts can be seen in the current modern Santa–like it was recorded that he went at night to drop off gifts to the poor in secret–but overall he is quite different from the big red dude so many love and adore today.
I am not going to turn this in to a Santa-hating blog…so don’t come after me with your candy canes. But after the research we found today–I am feeling a huge tug to make this day (December 6th) more of a recognition than Santa. He gets WAY too much credit and press…and is often a distraction from the real event that happens which is a BIG birthday party for Jesus on the 25th. Chris and I often say–“Santa is just Jesus’ party planner for his birthday bash!”
No matter what your tradition…not matter what your thoughts are on the whole Santa gig–my new found respect for St. Nick will be celebrated this month on December 6th…as I want to model and my children to model his secret acts of kindness and generosity. I want them to find joy in giving as he clearly did. I want them to be bold in their faith and stand up for those who are falsely accused. In their notes my big kids wrote, “If we were in St. Nicks’ spot we would choose to go to jail and would refuse to worship our government as God…and I would feel scared but hopeful and prayerful–I would trust in God.”
So if St. Nick went toe to toe with Santa in just about any ring–I can’t help but believe the tubby cookie eater would lose to the lean, mean, generosity machine.
Here’s the deal. I feel like I can say hard stuff because I am in Africa. So this morning I am pulling the “I don’t have the distractions and wish you didn’t either card.” I also realized that Caroline and Jonathan would be the whistle blowers on any Santa conversation in our household as they have “been good” but never had a visit from the big guy in the red suit. (Don’t worry, I promise I will teach them manners and respect for your families’ traditions!)
My encouragement: Keep this month full of really great stuff that keeps your heart and your kids’ hearts focused on what this month is all about. Get creative–don’t do what you have always done–just cause.
No guilt…pure love. Guilt is not from me or from Him…there is way more freedom than that in this lifetime. If this feels like a dig–don’t take it that way–it is not meant that way and comes from deep love and respect for everyone who reads it.
Just hoping for more and more opportunities (for you and for me) to bring Him the advent He deserves.
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed!