15th December 2010

Father Christmas

“…we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Acts 20:35 (NIV)

A few hundred years ago there was an elderly man, a Christian, who was known for his generosity to the poor. Whether by surname or nickname, he was called Father Christmas. On one particular Christmas Eve, he was tossing coins for the children in the street to catch, when one coin fell into the chimney of a nearby dwelling, rattled down and landed plop into a stocking that was hanging by the fire to dry.

The above story—garbled, no doubt, to within an inch of its life—is supposedly the origin of the Christmas stocking custom. Originally it wasn’t about overloading over-wrought children with more extra additional bonus toys than they can count or you can pay for. It was about generosity to the poor. I am not saying ‘Bah Humbug’ to parties and enjoyment, or recommending you disappoint your kids, but it is worth exploring the various ways of combining charitable giving with the Christmas tradition. There are several organisations that not only take direct donations for goats, medicine, education or other items of your choice, but also operate schemes whereby you can buy a gift for the poor on behalf of a named friend or relative. Your church would also, no doubt, welcome a seasonal donation for the ongoing tasks of ministering to the needs of its people locally or internationally. Perhaps you could consider organisations that take individual gifts or shoebox collections to parts of the world where presents really are a rare and exciting experience?

So save yourself some serious seasonal stress! Charity just might turn out to be a lighter burden than obligation: How many people have you struggled to think of presents for? How many relatives have politely thanked you for what they neither want nor need? How many friends can buy better things for themselves than you can give them anyway? What would your children say about going shopping to fill a shoebox for a child in poorer circumstances? Maybe it’s time to play Father Christmas together.

God of love, teach us in Christian charity to involve ourselves with the needs of others, remembering how you take care of our needs.

Study by Fiona Jones 

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