Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Day 6: St. Nick

Doomsday Preppers:  an Advent devotional

Day 6:  St. Nick

Today is the feast day of St. Nicholas and in our house, the kiddos woke up to stockings full of candy, a small toy and fruit (no nuts...the kids just recently decided they don't like nuts!).  On the west side of Cincinnati, where I grew up, it seemed as though roughly 50-60% of families celebrated St. Nicholas Day this way.  Where I live now, further east, much more rural and far more protestant, we may be the only people around that celebrate it.  

That's okay by me, though, because the historical person, Nicholas, was such an inspirational Christian.  Though there are many different accounts of his life and many of the specific details are varying degrees of questionable, there are two things that are consistent among all the stories of his life and they are two things that all Christians need to emulate.  The first is that he lived his entire life wholly committed to Christ.  The second being that he did all his kind and generous deeds in secret.

In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus says, "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

How often do we do good things for others so that we are noticed and recognized as good people?  How often do we do good things because of what we think we'll get out of it?  The author Ayn Rand espoused an idea that there are no truly altruistic deeds, that no matter what, everything we do is for a selfish reason.  I think she was right.  Even though she was an atheist, she still noticed that there was something broken in the human nature that caused us to always seek out our own ambitions before those of others.  I believe the only person capable of a truly selfless act is Jesus and if we are to have any hope of ever doing something altruistic, it will only be because of Jesus Christ living in us and working through us.

I believe Nicholas knew that as well and that is why he did all his good deeds and gave all his gifts in secret.  That wouldn't prevent him necessarily from doing things for his own gain, but it is a lot harder to seek credit and adulation when no one sees what you do.  The Bible passage above shows how much Christ taught that good deeds should be done in secret.  In other words, don't seek your reward for good deeds from people, seek those rewards from your Heavenly Father.  God's rewards will always be infinitely bigger than anything a person may reward you with.

So as you go about this season, think about how to do your good deeds in secret.  If you do volunteer work during this season, as many do, think about how your attitude toward it should be like that of Nicholas'.  Think about what is different between giving a gift in front of many people or giving a gift either in private or secretly.  Do not let your right hand know what your left one is doing and see the reward God reaps upon you!

Activity:  Do something for someone secretly.  Either take care of a task for them without them knowing who did it or leave them a gift without saying who it is from.  It can be as small as leaving a candy bar on a co-worker's desk or as large as anonymously dropping off a few bags of food on a needy family's doorstep.

Prayer:  Take time today to pray that God shows you many, many opportunities where you can care for others without them knowing.  Pray that you recognize these opportunities and jump on them.

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