I love pulling out my Christmas box to decorate my office. (Stop in, you’ll see my goodies.) One of my favorite pieces is what I affectionately call “Advent Santa.” Instead of traditional Red, Santa is dressed in Blue, the liturgical color for Advent.
Here are a few explanations I have heard about why Advent is Blue:
· Blue is the color of twilight, where night and day meet, where expectation and renewal are awakened to possibility, at the New Dawn of the arrival of Christ.
· Blue is the color of hope. As we look to the sky getting darker and darker each day, we are reminded and are hopeful that soon the days will lengthen once more, as we meet the Light of the World anew.
· Blue is the color for Mary. Christian art across the centuries always dressed Mary in Blue. As we anticipate the Son of God and his cosmic mission; we are reminded of his earthly parents, their abundant faith, his humble beginnings, and the life he came to live.
· The marketers at church supply stores invented Blue to sell more church paraments for altars, stoles for pastors, etc. (Advent and Lent used to both be Purple years ago.)
I like Advent Santa. He reminds me of my love for St. Nicholas and that the story of Christmas is certainly bigger than he is…
Saint (Santa) Nicholas (Claus) was a real person who lived a long time ago, and really did give presents. Nick was a pastor, in fact a Bishop, of a town in modern Turkey called Myra. He lived in the 300s and was known for his cheerfulness and generosity. Art I’ve seen of him portrays him as a jolly old soul, with a long white beard (I’m not quite so sure that his belly shook like a bowlful of jelly, but some things are simply worth believing). A children’s book I have of him has him wearing a Red Robe and Red Bishop’s Mitre (that is the goofy pointy hat bishops in some traditions wear. I told one of my friends in seminary if he ever gets elected bishop, I’m going to buy him one as a Christmas present.)
The story of St. Nick that transformed him into the Santa we knowis based on his care for one family. There was a poor family in town with three daughters. Since they were poor, the family didn’t have enough money to set aside for a dowry, and as a result their future was bleak. Their parents were desperate and spent hours praying in the church, longing, hoping, and pleading for a miracle. In those days if a young girl didn’t get married, she would potentially have to become a slave (or worse…). But Nick, their pastor, wasn’t going to let that happen. He took it upon himself to collect “a little extra” from his friends, from his church, and from other people he knew in the community prevailing on their generosity and faithfulness. He collected more than enough for each of these three young women to begin their lives on their own and start families. He put money into three little purses, and – you guessed it – threw them through the opening in the roof of their house late at night once the fire was out. In the morning they found the purses full of money and they thanked God for the miracle. Later on, after they discovered what had happenend, they thanked Nick, their church, their friends, and their community as God’s gifts made way for a new future: the twilight of a new dawn.
Good stories do not get contained long. The legend of Pastor Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, spread throughout the region, and eventually all of Europe and beyond. People remembered him as a “saint” for his faithfulness, joy and generosity. Many saints are remembered on the day of their death. Nicholas died on December 6, and with such proximity to Christmas, the story soon expanded to this jolly saint of God visiting other young children on Christmas Eve.
When you hang your stocking this year, remember Advent Santa. Remember St. Nicholas. Remember the generosity of spirit he still inspires. As Advent Santa looks at me across my desk each year I am captivated again by how one gift can change a life. As I peer in my stocking to see what goodies I might receive each Christmas, I think of those three girls, their parents and their pastor creative enough to bring Christmas through the chimney that night.
The greatest gift of all is coming soon:
The Child in Manger.
The Savior for the World.
The Twilight of a New Dawn.
The Light of the World that Shines in the Darkness.
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
Wear your hat, and hang your stocking. Check your list, and check it twice; there may be someone who should be added to it. Pray, give thanks, wonder, and remember – some of us still believe.
Ho. Ho. Ho.
P.S. I’m not so sure about elves. I have known them to clean up my messes while I’ve been away or run errands I didn’t quite think I had the time for, and I try to thank Tammie for letting them in…Don’t forget to thank the elves in your life this Christmas too!
“The Light shines in the darkness, and the light did not overcome it” (John 1:5).