This week, my household celebrated one of my favorite Advent traditions- welcoming the arrival of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas Day, which is celebrated annually on December 6, is a day in honor of this Turkish Bishop of Myra who was known for his generosity, his love of children, and for his dedication to serving God by giving all that he had to the poor. In our house, we commemorate the day by setting out shoes by the Christmas tree for St. Nicholas to fill with little treasures, treats and oranges. Austin usually gets a book. I have continued my mom’s tradition of adding a new ornament to the tree as well. These small tokens one fun way to be reminded of St. Nicholas’ adoration of children, and they are reminder for us to put our focus on the greatest gift to come, the coming Christ child.
While we don’t often observe feast days of saints in the Methodist tradition, I cannot help but love this day because it is also a way of thinking about tangible hope. Here we have the perfect opportunity to demonstrate how giving does not need to be reciprocal. We give to others without any expectation of something in return. We enter into someone’s hard, lived experience and say, “I am here for you because God loves me and God loves you, too.” How is it that we can follow the example of Christ by offering up of our gifts and ourselves this Advent season?
As we move into the second week of Advent, the week of peace, I also want to welcome you to consider how hope and peace work together. We discussed in the first week of the Wednesday night Advent study Almost Christmas that the peace Christ offers us is not something of this world but a very part of him. When he speaks to the disciples in the upper room in John 14:27 he says,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
This is not just any peace; this is Christ’s peace. Christ is leaving a part of himself with us, and we are to move toward a peace that restores all of creation to health and prosperity. Easy enough, right? No! In so many facets of our lives, this altogether peace is incredibly difficult to accomplish. But, like everything else in our Christian journey, we do not do this work alone. In meditation, in reflection and in the recognition and acceptance that our anger begets more chaos and less peace, we can start to attune our hearts to a more prayerful and gracious way of being. It is hard work to move away from the turbulence of conflict and envision a different way, but let us do just that- dream of ways that we can make alternatives to violence a reality in our communities and our world. May that be our prayer for the week.
With Hope and Peace,