We should be thinking of the greatest gift of all
Doug Heacock, contemporary worship leader and director of media and communications, Lawrence Free Methodist Church, 3001 Lawrence Ave.:
Based on what is known about Saint Nicholas of Myra (whom we know as Santa Claus), I suspect that he would have been concerned very little about naughtiness or niceness and far more occupied with giving gifts and meeting the needs of others. Nicholas was known for being a clandestine gift-giver. For example, legend has it that Nicholas learned of a man who had three daughters, but who could not afford the customary dowry required to marry them off. Without husbands or other means of income, they would likely have been forced into prostitution. Nicholas, it is said, visited the man’s home on three consecutive nights and tossed a bag of gold in the open window (or down the chimney, in another version) each night, once for each daughter’s dowry. On the third night, the father secretly waits to learn the identity of the person who has helped him, and when he discovers it is Nicholas and tries to thank him, Nicholas tells him to thank God alone.
One of the simple tenets of the Christian faith is that none of us is “nice” enough to earn God’s favor; this is why he dispatched his son from the comforts of heaven, to enter our world, to become one of us, to demonstrate the love and character of God, and ultimately, to satisfy once for all the requirement of death as the penalty for sin. This gift is at the heart of what we celebrate each Christmas.
As songwriter Randy Stonehill once put it: “... I know that if Saint Nicholas was here, he would agree that Jesus gave the greatest gift of all to you and me.”
I wish you a joyful Christmas.
— Send e-mail to Doug Heacock at email@example.com.
God’s role is not to mark ‘naughty’ or ‘nice’
The Rev. Jill Jarvis, Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, 1263 N. 1100 Road:
Certainly not! While Santa Claus does seem to have a penchant for rewarding the “nice” and punishing the “naughty,” God would never take part in a conversation aimed at separating her children into those who are worthy versus those who don’t measure up. Being fully in touch with the natural processes that create and form humanity, God understands — apparently better than Santa Claus — that each of us in our own way is sometimes nice and sometimes naughty. Given that we all share a common source and a common destiny, making divisive lists and checking them twice runs counter to God’s role as the spirit of life and love in the world. Surely she has more just and compassionate ways to spend her time, especially in this season as together we celebrate bringing light and hope into a broken world.
Despite Santa’s image as a happy, jolly fellow intent only on bringing cheer, it’s clear that the old guy has a serious judgmental streak. Compassion and justice are evidently not his strong suits (remember, despite his belated intervention on behalf of Rudolph, there were stories of ongoing workplace harassment at his North Pole workshop.) The image of the child deemed “naughty” awakening hopefully on Christmas morning only to find lumps of coal in his or her stocking is bad enough; worse is the fact that millions of children who most need his attention never get a visit from Santa. All God’s children deserve the blessings of a good life: peace, shelter, health care, freedom from hunger and bigotry, the love of family and friends. Santa Claus should be setting the example, but if he fails to deliver, it’s up to the rest of us to nurture this world that nurtures us, and to make this vision of hope a reality.
— Send e-mail to Jill Jarvis at firstname.lastname@example.org