Advent Devotional | December 10, 2020
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4
“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic His giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.” – St. Nicholas
The traditional “Santa” story we’ve grown up with runs much deeper than the familiar chimney-diving gift giver. While many details in today’s tradition are fantasized, the story did begin with gift-giving. Nicholas was a real person, who was born in the 3rd century to wealthy parents. He lived in Asia Minor in the small coastal village of Patara, which is now in modern-day Turkey. Raised in a devoutly Christ-centered home, Nicholas loved Jesus from a young age. When his parents died during an epidemic, he was left with a vast sum of money. His newfound wealth and strong convictions are where the story began.
Struck by Jesus’ call for radical discipleship, Nicholas secretly gifted away all of his inheritance money. He later joined the ministry and was a compelling preacher and leader in the church who emphasized pro-life issues, proclaimed Jesus’ deity, and spoke out against sexual sin. He brought significant reform to the church in that day, even under the threat of death. That doesn’t sounds like the Santa I was told about growing up! Nicholas was a man of deep Christian convictions. His story, not the modern-day spinoff, is one to be celebrated, emulated, and told this Christmas.
The source of Nicholas’ convictions was God’s Word. For disciples of Jesus, that Word must take precedence over tradition. As you think about giving gifts this Christmas, focus on Jesus. Let the Bible guide your gifting, and let your love for Jesus be your motivation. God cares about our motives in giving. Don’t get caught up on how to give. Re-read Jesus’ words above in Matthew 6 and make some observations. The reasons you give and your expectations in return do matter.
Pastor Dave Mergens