What would you get rid of for Christmas?

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A friend of mine one taught me that rather than “giving up” things for Lent, it is better to add something—more quiet time, more prayer. Similarly, I suggest that Christmas be a time not for getting more and doing more, but a time to get rid of some unwanted stuff. For instance …

In 2009, in its series The Question The Guardian asked “What would you get rid of for Christmas?” Anglican clergyman Peter Bolton responded that he would get rid of churchmen who denounce sexual sins with a fervour they never apply to any other sin.

This is like writing a letter to Santa! Resisting with all my might the temptation to ask for the extermination of certain people who get on my nerves my mind wonders around to the big and worthy issues. Should I ask for the end of war or global warming or poverty or homelessness or child abuse? Well, yes, I should […]

I can just about understand that Christians might regard homosexual acts as sinful but what I completely fail to understand is why they get so worked up about it. I just wish that churchmen (yes, I do mean that) who get so upset about what they regard as sexual sins would get just as worked up about illegal wars, the greed that leads to global warming, or the violence done to women in the name of Christian marriage. I wish were as vociferous in their campaigning against world poverty, against nuclear weapons or the appalling treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. Why do they seem to get more upset about people trying to love than they do about poverty, the penal system, or the exploitation of women?

So, dear Santa, please get rid of all talk from churchmen about sex unless it is a celebration of God’s wonderful gift. […] Come to think about it, though, it might be more realistic to hope for the end of poverty.

I too would get rid of Santa. If we must have a feast of gift-giving, then St Nicholas is the real deal (and in Advent, not on Christmas Day).

nicholasThe Roman Catholic Church demoted Nicholas in 1969, by making observance of his feast day optional (December 6th in the Gregorian calendar) but he is much venerated in the Orthodox tradition and held by some to be patron saint of children, thieves, bankers, prisoners, sailors, unmarried girls and pawnbrokers—as well as the nations of Greece and Russia.

In 1892, Crown Prince Nicholas of Russia travelled to Bari, in south-eastern Italy, to visit the basement of a medieval basilica, to pray where the remains of his namesake, brought to Italy in 1087, are kept. A year earlier, Nicholas had blessed the building of the trans-Siberian railway by installing an image of St Nicholas at its Pacific extreme in Vladivostok. The Bari basilica still receives many Russian pilgrims every year on St. Nicholas’ feats day by the orthodox calendar), drawn to honour the man whom Russians call Nikolai Ugodnik, Nicholas the Helper.

Bethlehem Christians claim Nicholas as their own because of a cave where the young Nicholas is said to have rested during his own pilgrimage to Bethlehem. There is a church built over the cave, scarred by fighting between Palestinians and the Israeli army. It was in Bethlehem that Nicholas heard the call to be a bishop in his native Asia Minor.

Nicholas is but a human story. Yet, if he were honoured instead of Santa, there would be still greater respect at Christmas for the Greatest Gift, Jesus the Christ.