Fr Christopher Jamison, Director of our Vocations Office, gave his ‘Pause For Thought’ to Chris Evans on his BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show on Wednesday, 7 December 2016. The seasonally appropriate subject was a look at the life of St Nicholas of Myra.
We all love Santa Claus and as Bruce Springsteen sang so memorably “Santa Claus is coming to town.” His ancestor was St Nicholas, whose feast day was yesterday. Nicholas was bishop of Myra in Turkey in the fourth century and was famed for his concern for children, especially poor children. Legend has it that a poor man could find nobody to marry his three daughters so he was about to sell them into slavery; Nicholas saved the girls by providing them each with a dowry; he threw three bags of gold through an open window and the bags landed in stockings that the girls had hung out to dry by the fire place. And that’s why we hang up stockings expecting gifts from St Nicholas, Santa Claus.
But he hasn’t always been popular. In the 16th century the Protestant reformers wanted to discourage devotion to saints so Martin Luther suggested moving the gift giving to Christmas Day. And that’s why Santa Claus now comes at Christmas. The belief that we receive gifts from some mysterious person is a great symbol of Christmas. We’re celebrating the ultimate gift – God’s gift of Jesus, a grace offered to all. Grace is a gift that people often receive in the midst of troubles and they don’t know where it came from. This grace may be an answer to prayer or the arrival of somebody who saves the day or simply discovering hidden strength that they didn’t know they possessed.
I too can be a mysterious gift to others in need. Santa Claus reminds us that Christmas is more than the celebration of mid-winter, it’s a celebration of life full of grace, the mysterious gift of God.