The following was published by The Gisborne Herald on Saturday 17 December 2005:
Some 1700 years ago, a devout priest by the name of Nicholas stumbled upon a simpletruth: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Nicholas discovered that giving generously to others had a wonderful effect on them.They become happy. They become more positive, more joyful, and even more helpful toothers.
Nicholas spent the rest of his ministry giving to others. He became known as the “givingpriest.” He later became a Bishop, and after his death was remembered as a saint – SaintNicholas.
Several centuries later, the Dutch incorporated Nicholas’ example into their winterculture through the exchange of gifts over the Christmas period. Saint Nicholas wasknown to them as Sinta Klas.
Dutch immigrants to the United States introduced their Sinta Klas, whose name soonbecame ‘mispronounced’ locally as Santa Claus. Santa became popularised throughchildren’s Christmas cards and poems. He also became more commercial in the 1930’s,when the Coca-Cola Company adopted a tubby, red-suited Santa as their advertising symbol.
This is the image of Santa that we have all come to know and love. The big, jolly, white-bearded man who gives gifts to children all over the world.
The modern image of Santa is quite different to the humble robes that Nicholas the priestwould of worn. But the spirit of giving he embodied remains almost the same.
We should not forget what inspired Nicholas in the first place – the love and forgiveness of his Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jesus gave his life, so that we would know forgiveness and peace.
This Christmas, we are all capable of giving the way that Nicholas did. We can also give the way Christ did, by doing something for others that makes their lives better. Because after all, the real meaning of Christmas is Christ.