This morning we had a special Godly Play where our two younger classrooms got together for feast to hear the story of St. Nicholas, who is celebrated on this the second Sunday of Advent. Then, at the very end of the mass St. Nicholas visits us, bringing cookies and oranges to share with the children of the parish. I love doing this lesson, because our kids are so confused. This is only the second year that we have really celebrated St. Nicholas in our parish, so most of our children aren't yet familiar with him. They are more familiar, of course, with the secular tradition of Santa Claus. So the St. Nicholas story confuses and intrigues them. This is part of the story we tell, taken from the Godly Play material:
Nicholas loved the Christ Child and wanted to give him gifts. But he lived long after the Christ Child did. Nicholas wondered if maybe there was something of the Christ Child in every child. So he began to give gifts to children on Christmas Eve. He was shy, and so he gave his gifts in secret, leaving only the present and the delight of receiving it behind. When Nicholas was old and full of years he died, but somehow the gifts kept coming. Sometimes they were left on the front porch, or came through a window or even down the chimney!
I love this way of celebrating the secret Christmas gifts because unlike Santa, St. Nicholas isn't spending time tracking who is good and who is bad. His gifts are a celebration of something sacred that indwells every child regardless of her or his behavior. They are mysterious gifts of love and adoration, unconditional gifts that reflect the unconditional love that all children intrinsically deserve.