Ed informed me yesterday that his giving this Christmas season will be limited to reasonably priced gifts only. He announced to Ruby and their family they should not expect any expensive type gifts from him this year. Ed’s announcement was regarded by Ed’s wife and family as nothing unusual for Ed. They describe Ed as characteristically cheap and penny-pinching, but lovable anyway.
As Christmas comes closer and closer, it seems the world divides between those who lean towards being too generous and those too comfortable with being too tight-fisted. Giving may be done for various reasons, but the best motivation in giving a gift is love for the one receiving your gift. Love may motivate a person’s gift-giving, but the price of the present to be given cannot be ignored. Best gifts are those that the other person truly needs.
Generous gift-givers get widely noticed and celebrated. One famous gift-giver was St. Nicholas. He was born in the village of Patara in Asia Minor in 270 A.D. His wealthy parents raised him to be a devout Christian. While Nicholas was still young, his parents died in an epidemic, and Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the poor, sick and suffering. Nicholas dedicated his life to serving God and became Bishop of Myra at an early age.
One legend about St. Nicholas secretly helping those in need has to do with St. Nicholas providing bags of gold for dowries. A poor man with three daughters did not have money for dowries for his daughters. So, when the girls could not be married because the father had no dowry for them, Nicholas feared they could be sold into servitude. Legend relates that Nicholas went by their house and threw a bag of gold coins through the open window. Three times he threw a bag of gold coins through the window. The third time the poor man saw him and thanked St. Nichols for the gold for the dowries for his daughters.
St. Nicholas gave generously; he gave more than strictly necessary or expected to those in need. He gave his money to help others anonymously, but his fame for his abundant giving remains to this day. Many see the generosity and love of all children of St. Nicholas as the basis for Santa Claus, who brings Christmas presents to children.
St. Nicholas was rich, but he did not put his hope in his wealth, nor was he arrogant because of it. He used his money to be generous, willingly sharing it with those in need. He understood the words of Jesus, “So when you give to the needy do not announce it – to be honoured by people. 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 (6:2-4.)
St. Nicholas lived the words of Jesus that it is more blessed to give than to receive. In this Christmas Season, the essential part of giving is love. “If I give all I possess to the poor – but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:3)