For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In one of the latest episodes of Potencial Millonario, I discussed the taboo that surrounds money and prevents people from making good decisions because they are afraid to talk about their problems or ask advice until it is too late. I advised listeners to let go of this fear about money, and to instead embrace an attitude of stewardship- where we understand our money and it works for us. I firmly believe that being responsible with money, following a budget, saving for emergencies, preparing for the future, spending less than what we earn, paying off debts, not creating new debts- these are ways that we control our money and make it serve us. This is what I call financial freedom- and it isn’t easy. But it does free us from the worry and stress that money problems cause, and allows us to use our gifts and talents to serve God.
This week I am mindful that Christmas is just a few days away. It has become a very commercialized holiday, but let’s not forget the true reason for the celebration: the birth of Jesus Christ. Isaiah 9:6 states, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” We celebrate the birth of the most influential human in history, and the son of God. This is the reason for the Christmas season- not the lights, glitter, shopping sprees, and food. We should remember the humble beginnings of the King of Kings, born in a stable, laid in a manger, housed among animals. But make no mistake, all the angels in heaven were singing to him, and the stars of the universe burned brighter for him. I wanted to take these few minutes and remember the birth of the Prince of Peace, and I hope that all people can take time each day to think about the true focus of the coming week.
You may ask yourself, “If Jesus is the source of Christmas, why do we give gifts?” This is really the story of Christmas traditions- not the story of Christmas. Where do our traditions come from- like the Christmas tree and gift giving? There are many sources for the traditions that every culture has, but let’s look back on one person who became very influential on the tradition of Christmas. Many Christmas legends and traditions go back to the Catholic Saint Nicholas, who lived in the fourth century. Very few hard facts have survived about Saint Nicholas, but it is known that he was a bishop in a place called Myra in Asia Minor. During the time of Saint Nicholas, a father had to pay a dowry in order for his daughters to be married. If a father was too poor to pay to have his daughters married, he may have had to resort to selling his daughters into slavery. A wonderful legend persists about Saint Nicholas, in which Saint Nicholas dropped bags of gold into a poor man’s window, to provide him money so that his three daughters would be saved. This began the tradition of gift giving on December 6, which is the feast day of Saint Nicholas. Later, the date was moved to December 25 as other denominations wanted to get away from the Catholic celebration of Saints- but the tradition of gift-giving remained.
As we think about where the tradition of gift giving originated, let’s concentrate on a few important points in this legend. First, Saint Nicholas used his own money to do a charitable act towards a stranger. If you’ve been listening to my previous episodes, you know that I think money should work for you, and that once you have money you should use it to help others. That is exactly what Saint Nicholas was doing. He used his money to make a real change happen for three young girls and their family. This wasn’t the type of change that an iphone or an Xbox brings- it is a change that was life-altering for that family. Let’s think about our lives now: we use our money at this time of year to often give gifts in excess or give gifts to people to who need nothing. Often, we might even go into debt to offer these gifts that after a few days or weeks are forgotten. The legend of Saint Nicholas should remind us that we should try to find truly meaningful gifts, and these are often not gifts that require money at all.
As Christmas day approaches, talk to your family about the real meaning of the celebration, Jesus Christ, and try telling them the story of Saint Nicholas and how gift giving in December began. Try to help them appreciate that it is not the cost of the gift that matters, but the thought that the gift-giver put into it. If you have children, encourage them to make gifts, or to give gifts like doing chores, or giving a backrub to Mom. Help them think about what each person in the family would really benefit from. Talk to your spouse about this- can you both really afford gifts this year? Or would you rather spend some time together, go for a walk, or watch their favorite movie? Let this quality time be your new Christmas tradition. These lessons that you teach your family now will help them grow into the future- and will help them avoid the consumer-traps that are out there during the holiday season.
- Pupils’ Christmas ‘ruined’ by vicar’s Santa Claus origins story (theguardian.com)
- The real Saint Nicholas? Really? (hiwaychristian.wordpress.com)
- Tonight St. Nicholas it’s on its way! I hope everyone has shiny boots 🙂 (whitekitten99.wordpress.com)
- Saint Nicholas (fonsofafool.wordpress.com)
- Saint Nicholas Day (feast day) — Britannica Online Encyclopedia (drweb.typepad.com)
- Saint Nicholas (englishminorblog.wordpress.com)