I’d like to start this morning by stating the message today comes from my heart. It is not the opinion of this Church, it’s Pastors or Elders but, instead, Pastor Woody’s personal feelings on this, the season of giving.
You all know my heart is an open-book and today, God willing, you’re going to get to read a few more pages. My inspiration, of course, comes from God and my Bible but the stories today stem from my heart.
This is the season of giving. Yes, I’ll admit, it’s become a little more than it should be, but it is this time of year when we give to each other freely, out of the goodness of our hearts. It’s also a wonderful time for children as they’ve waited so long, after trying to be good girls and boys all year, for what Santa Claus may have in store for them.
Over the course of the past week, I’ve become somewhat disheartened at the fact there are so many people, including children, who don’t believe in Santa Claus. This, to me, is so sad as this is the season of giving.
I don’t know about you but, for me, Santa has always been a figure of hope as I was growing-up. I always knew that, if I had been a good boy, there would be something waiting for me under the tree that early December morning.
Santa represented everything my Mom would tell me about how Jesus wanted us to live. She’d always talk about how we would should “give freely” as Jesus gave of Himself. Also, as Spydr has mentioned several times in the past, we should “Never let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (Matthew 6:3)
I don’t know about you, but I never really caught Santa in the act but, nonetheless, I woke up and there they were… all wrapped-up and sitting pretty underneath our Christmas tree. Santa never stuck around long enough to boast about all he had left for me and my siblings. He was far too busy to do such a thing and knew that wasn’t the way God wanted giving to be anyway.
So, for those of you that are stuck on the belief that there is no Santa Claus, let’s talk a little this morning and see if I can get you to change your mind.
Who Is Santa Claus
Saint Nicholas of Myra (traditionally 15 March 270 – 6 December 343), also known as Nicholas of Bari, was an early Christian Bishop of the ancient Greek city of Myra in Asia Minor (modern-day Demre, Turkey) during the time of the Roman Empire.
He is revered by many Christians as a saint. Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession (mediation or negotiation), he is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker.
Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, and students in various cities and countries around Europe.
His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was common for early Christian saints, and his legendary habit of secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus (“Saint Nick”).
There you have it, from the history books! St. Nicholas; Kris Kringle; Father Christmas… my birth name is Stephen, but you can call me Woody!
Virginia O’Hanlon was an eight-year-old little girl living in New York in 1897. One day, she posed the question to her Father, “Daddy, is there really a Santa Claus?” Not quite certain how to answer his little girl, he suggested that she write the New York Sun as it had always been said, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.”
The New York Sun, September 21, 1897
We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
115 West Ninety Fifth Street
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.
We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and un-seeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Giving in The Bible
All throughout the Bible we’re taught to give of ourselves. Jesus Himself, gave all that He had for others without exception. His most precious gift to us and that of His Father’s? He gave us His Life! So, who then, is the ultimate giver?!
Matthew 20:28 – “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
God did not send down His only Son to be served by others. Instead, His Son would be servant to all. His ministry here on Earth was all about giving… giving of ourselves; giving to those in need; giving to the hungry and poor. We, like Jesus, are to be the servants.
From the Heart
Today, unfortunately, giving has become a burden to some of us. We’ve been taken-in by society and what everyone else believes giving is all about. Giving has become a hassle, a chore and not something we look forward to doing, especially at this time of the year.
This is not how Christ would have us give. He would, most clearly, tell us that our giving should come from our heart, wanting to do so without expectation and with the understanding of the glorious rewards we will eventually receive from our Father in Heaven.
2 Corinthians 9:7 – “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
So, you ask, what are these “glorious rewards” I just spoke of and how will we recognize them? Let me try and show you how, in an oh-so little example of how God rewards us when we give to others.
In this simple example, you see how God rewards us for our giving. It may be subtle and not blatant at all but, if you open your hearts, you will see your rewards clearly.
Don’t expect things immediately. As a matter of fact, don’t expect anything at all! We always talk about being humble and kind well, giving, is clearly a part of kindness.
It doesn’t matter what, or how much you give. Whatever you give to others, out of the goodness of your heart, pleases God and your rewards will be great!
Luke 6:38 (NLV) – “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
What We Give
Let’s take a minute to talk about what to give. Are there any rules that you can find that dictates what it is we’re supposed to give one another? No, there simply isn’t. We need to remember the whole “heart thing.” It isn’t what we give but, instead, what of “us” we give as we are able.
Deuteronomy 16:17 – “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.”
This isn’t speaking about iPhones, computers and expensive things… it’s “whatever you are able,” from your heart.
The Gift of the Magi
“The Gift of the Magi” is a short story by O. Henry first published in 1905. The story tells of a young husband and wife and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money. It is a sentimental story with a moral lesson about gift-giving.
Mr. James Dillingham Young (“Jim”) and his wife, Della, are a couple living in a modest apartment.
On Christmas night, with only $1.87 in hand, and desperate to find a gift for Jim, Della sells her hair for $20 to a nearby hairdresser named Madame Sofronie, and eventually finds a platinum pocket watch fob chain for Jim’s watch for $21 and she was satisfied with the perfect gift she got for Jim.
At 7 o’clock, Della sits at a table near the door, waiting for Jim to come home. Unusually late, Jim walks in and immediately stops short at the sight of Della, who had previously prayed that she was still pretty to Jim. Della then admits to Jim that she sold her hair to buy him his present. Jim gives Della her present – an assortment of combs, useless now that her hair is shortened. Della then shows Jim the chain she bought for him, to which Jim says he sold his watch to get the money to buy her ornamental combs. Although Jim and Della are now left with gifts that neither one can use, they realize how far they are willing to go to show their love for each other, and how priceless their love really is.
The Magi’s Inspiration
Okay, so going back to the Biblical story of the Magi, was it not a glorious star in the east that inspired the Magi to seek out the Baby Jesus, the Newborn King? Did God not put that star in the heavens to show the way? Yes, and the Magi were filled with the gift of giving and brought their presents to give praise to their King.
So likewise, at this time of the year when our Savior was born, does God not put this same spirit into all of us? Are our hearts not somehow changed?
Back to Santa
As I read to you earlier from Wikipedia, Saint Nicholas was real, and was noted for his legendary habit of secret gift giving. Always giving to others with no expectations of receiving anything in return.
How many of you were involved in the Toy Run? How many of you have donated a “new or un-wrapped” present to Toys for Tots? Did you expect anything in return? As a result of this type of generosity, how many thousands of needy children are going to wake-up on Christmas morning to, what they feel, is a great and glorious gift from Santa? Still think he doesn’t exist? …okay, let’s do more!
We all watch the news sometimes, right? Have any of you seen the various news stations that have collected, or are collecting, food for the homeless? I have, and I can tell you there have been thousands up thousands of donations made to this as well.
It doesn’t end here. Take a look, after the season is over, and watch how many people gave up their day to feed the homeless or the poor. Is this not also a great gift where nothing is expected in return?
To all the little children that are too young to realize the glory of God, what does Santa represent to them? Have you ever stared into a child’s eyes and seen the joy within them when they talk about Santa and when he’s coming? Have you not seen the happiness of a little girl when she’s un-wrapped a beautiful baby doll… as she squeezes it tightly in her arms? These gifts, to a child, are truly from Santa… the unseen hope, and he is real!
Now what about us? We’ve all grown too old and caught-up in society to believe in Santa. We, like so many others, just can’t believe there is someone out there that gives freely of themselves like the little old man in the red suit. Where is our hope?
We know of God; we know of Jesus and The Holy Spirit. In this Holy Trinity is our hope. When the troubles of this world surround us, we know where our salvation lies. It is in the hands of God! We’ve read about it; we’ve felt it in our hearts and we’ve seen it through the miracles that surround us every day. God is real!
Watch this Lesson
I have never seen Santa Claus myself, aside from the “Mall-Santas” and Santas on TV. Does that mean he isn’t real? I’ve never caught him in the act of dropping-off the various presents I received as a child. He was always much too fast for me. Does Santa not bring hope and joy into a child’s heart? Do the children not smile radiantly when they speak of him and when he’s going to visit? Yes, he most assuredly does.
I have also never seen God! I’ve never had the pleasure of walking beside Jesus when He was here with us. I never had the privilege of fishing with Jesus and His Disciples on the Sea of Galilee, but I know they did.
I pray and give thanks to God regularly. I always listen to Jesus as He whispers His lessons in my ear. I have been filled with The Holy Spirit when I’ve been troubled, knowing not to fear and understanding I am protected and shielded by the armor of God. If I experience all these things, is God not real also?
As long as there are people, with gorgeous souls, providing gifts for the children who have nothing, I will believe in Santa. I will witness the joy in a child’s heart, with tears in my eyes and say, “Yes, Virginia… there is a Santa Claus!”
Until the end of days, as long as there is one single soul alive, still willing to give of themselves, expecting nothing in return out of the pure goodness of their heart… willing to clothe and shelter the homeless; feed the hungry and give of what they have to others that don’t, I will say further, “And also, Virginia… there is a God!”
So, in conclusion today, I’d like to leave you with these instructions:
Grown-ups: Listen to the children, understanding and remembering their innocence and know who Santa Claus is!
Children: Respect your parents, understanding their hardships, but realizing their faith and know God!
For all that believe, some of us call Him God. Other believers may call him The Almighty or Yahweh. There are also other religions that know Him as Allah or Buddha but, at this time of year, the children know Him as Santa… and He, I can assure you, is VERY real!
Go with God; be good to one another; always stay humble; always be kind… God Bless (Amen)