Today, December 6, is the Feast Day of St. Nicholas of Myrna, and as I am writing this ahead of time my email is becoming flooded with requests for Giving Tuesday. We often refer to these December weeks as the “season of giving,” and with good reason: whether we are giving thanks, or our efforts, or a tangible or financial gift, the recommended focus during this time of year is other-centered. We look beyond ourselves for opportunities to connect; always lovingly, often sacrificially.
St. Nicholas (the real one, not his derivative alter-ego Santa Claus!) is an excellent model for us as we navigate through decisions around our giving. Born in the third century to a family of wealth and privilege, Nicholas’ parents died when he was young. He decided to heed Jesus’ words about selling possessions and donating to the poor. He took his inheritance and used it to help those most vulnerable around him, especially children. He fed people during famines, and provided council and means to assist people who were unjustly accused of crimes. He gave the money for dowries to young women who would otherwise have been sold into slavery. His gifts were generous and often given anonymously.
In order to give of himself and of his resources, Nicholas first located his heart at the center of his Christian faith. Contemplating the teachings of Jesus, he then responded mindfully to the needs he saw around him and cared about most. He was expansive in his generosity. His inspiration to us in this process endures: may we all find our hearts fixed to the Gospel and our responses extravagantly supportive of those in need.