Advent is the time of the Church Liturgical year for us to prepare for Christmas. How can we use this time to prepare for the coming of Jesus, when so much of our time is consumed in preparation for ‘material Christmas’?
Wahlert Catholic Religion Department Chairperson Jim Kuhl offers some ideas that may help you make material Christmas real CHRISTmas.
Why not take a look at Santa in a whole new way? As you know, Santa Claus derives from St. Nicholas, whose feast day is December 6 (close to the beginning of Advent). St. Nicholas was a Bishop in Asia Minor in the third century whose parents passed on their wealth to him when they died. St. Nicholas firmly believed he should give it all to the poor and needy. And that is just what he did.
As the story goes, St. Nicholas learned of a family whose three daughters would be sold into slavery, in the absence of a dowry. Secretly, he delivered the family gold so the girls could get married. So as not to be seen, Nicholas climbed to the chimney and dropped the gold down. It ended up in either a stocking or shoe that was drying by the fire. Here we have some of the beginnings of the story of Santa Claus. St. Nicholas gave us many of the meaningful giving concepts of Santa!
Around the age of 8 or 9, children are becoming more inquisitive and beginning to form a deeper understanding of the world around them, which may inspire much interest and conversation about Santa Claus. As you know, it is around this time in the second grade when children also receive their first Communion. Keep in mind what your children are taught about the Eucharist…we are the Body of Christ! We are to be Christ for one another.
By recalling these two real Christian traditions, you can help your child be giving like St. Nicholas and a member of the Body of Christ for others. Something tangible families might do together during Advent is to pick a ‘Giving Tree’ tag from your parish, allowing your children to take charge of the preparation for this gesture. Find out about people and causes in your community who may need your help, and empower your children to identify ways they can be Christ for the least among us.
Advent is a good time to set all of this in motion – And, to celebrate Jesus’ birth! Take some time to pray, read the Advent booklets with your family, light your Advent candles when you pray, suggest to your kids that they ask for only three presents (just like Jesus received), and be the Body of Christ for others.
When their children were growing up, Jim and his wife Colleen decided to educate them about Santa. Jim has written a second part to this article about how to discuss Santa with your kids. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn what he and Colleen say!
Jim Kuhl is Wahlert Catholic’s Religion Department Chairperson. He has been married to Colleen for 37 years. They have 4 children, [Megan ‘02, who is married to Seth and has one child, Jonah; Mark ‘08, who is married to Bridget, with two children, Grace and a baby on the way; Maureen ’11 and Mackenzie ’14] all graduates of Wahlert Catholic and Holy Family grade schools. Jim has taught at Wahlert Catholic for 38 years!
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