Friday, December 6, 2013

Saint Nicholas Trophies


Yesterday I saw a decapitated deer carcass by the side of the road of my commute. Deer carcasses are sadly a frequency by the rural roads I travel to work, but the vehicle that may or may not have caused the death of this buck did not decapitate him. His head had been severed by a human. This was obvious to me, even in a glance. Who would do this for a trophy and leave behind the remains like so much trash for someone else to clean up?
I was left pondering such trophy hunting and remembering concern for elephants, gorillas and other victims of massacre. Then I had to ask myself what kind of trophies I seek.
I had a friend once who collected Santas. Her home was decorated for Christmas with such abundance of beauty that one couldn’t help but feel delighted and invited to express the joy of the season. She had a Christmas tree in every room of her Victorian gingerbread house. Each room had a theme, and my favorite was the Santa room. The tree in this room had only Santa Clause ornaments, as did the mantle, the wreathes, the china set out for an imaginary tea. It may sound like too much, but it was done for a tour of homes and was just for fun, and it was not overdone in that context. So I started collecting Santa’s after that. A few years later, my collection was nearly as complete as hers and my home was on the same tour and my “Santa Room” was the dining room where another friend loaned me the matching Santa china to create the sought after abundance. It was fun. It was pretty. And later I felt overwhelmed packing away all of my Santa trophies and ended up pondering the warnings that this Santa stuff has gotten out of hand.
Perhaps I can ease my confusion by learning more about the real St. Nicholas on this his feast day.
St. Nicholas often traveled on a white horse, or in some versions of the story a donkey like the Christ child before the nativity, nestled deep in the womb of Mary. He is the patron saint of various causes, particularly travelers. It was the sailors who first claimed him as their saint and told stories about him from port to port. This was the beginning of the oral tradition of a great man of God who followed Christ’s commandment to care for the poor, the widows and children, orphaned or not.
There is so much more to learn about the real St. Nick. In this way I can sort through the greed and find gratitude for the truth. I am grateful for my safe travels through these lovely Virginia mountains each day. I am grateful too for the many lovely ways we celebrate the Christ Mass. Practicing gratitude did not stop after Thanksgiving for me and this has enhanced my spiritual practice for Advent.
A couple of weeks ago I sold the last of my Santa china.  I still have a couple of my grandmother’s Santa’s packed away somewhere but for now my home is empty of any Christmas décor. We are celebrating the emptiness of Advent here, preparing and waiting and this year so far Advent has been more meaningful for it thanks in part to the thoughts of others like Sharon Autenrieth and Pamela Dolan.
Still, we must remember to pull out the decorations when the time comes. We must remember to practice joy. In spite of the fact that all the children in my life have grown past the age of Santa or elves on shelves, I must remember to spend some time with children, and widows, and the poor for this is the best way to celebrate the life of St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra and also the best way to celebrate the coming of God incarnate.

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