by the Revd John Pritchard, Parish Church of the Annunciation, London
December 10, 2011
St Nicholas Society Mass
The Long Wait
It is because of our Lord Jesus, because of what he inspired in an individual that we celebrate Nicholas, the fourth Century Bishop of Myra with a reputation for love and care especially towards the young and vulnerable. So great was Nicholas' devotion to God through prayer and to God's people through secret good works, that more than 1700 years later, the cult of Nicholas has a life of its own. Yet today we gather, reminded that the cult of Nicholas has its foundation and finds its life in the revelation of the Love of God, revealed most specially and most uniquely in the Child Jesus. History hasn't been so kind to St Nicholas, because he has become more an excuse for consumerism over compassion: greed over generosity, less holy and more holly; less prayerfully revealing the influence of the love of God, more painfully revealing the selfishness of humankind.
But there is hope, which as is the way, comes from a most unexpected place. I hope you have all seen the Christmas advert for John Lewis. It's called "The Long Wait." If you haven't, you need to go on YouTube soon (see below), it has been an instant sensation. It is brilliantly made. It is the story is of a young child who just can't wait for Christmas morning. We see him doing all the Advent stuff, making decorations, dressing up for a nativity play, and baking—but with much wistful staring out of the window, slow playing on his swing and a great deal of clock watching. In one scene he is dressed as wizard trying to magic the hands of the clock to just go round faster.
In the end it is finally Christmas Eve. He bolts his tea—including all the vegetables—and rushes to bed to sleep. Christmas morning comes. He jumps out of bed and runs past the huge pile of presents at the bottom of his bed to give a big, badly wrapped present to his sleeping parents. The caption comes up—For Gifts You Can't Wait to Give.
I think Nicholas would approve. For that young child, Christmas is not about getting more stuff, but about the joy of showing love. That is the same love that was inspiringly revealed and reflected in Nicholas towards the poor and hungry. It is the same love we hear every day in the Good News: the Gospel of our Lord Jesus.
When we fall in love, with each other or with God, I think we are given a moment to make a choice. Will this love make us more selfish or more generous? We can always revisit that question, perhaps at no better time than now. Because the love that Nicholas had for God made him a remarkably generous person in prayer and in the "stuff" of life.
When it was important he was generous, and I suspect that generous trait spilled over towards everyone he came across.
We are waiting eagerly for the greatest gift from God—the Christ child—but even today we are not ignorant of God's love towards us, so we can choose, to become selfish with the riches of love and stuff which we have in abundance, or to be generous, even until it hurts.
Because that is in part what is revealed in God, and what we want to imitate, not just in season, but in all times and in all places, giving thanks to God.
While we are out and about enjoying the 14 shopping days—keep an eye out for the John Lewis Christmas carrier bags. When you see the slogan "For Gifts You Can't Wait to Give"—remember it is not just about piles of presents—great though they are for showing love—but also that God just can't wait to send his Son, because of whom and through whom we give thanks for Nicholas. Amen.
By the Revd John Pritchard, Parish Church of the Annunciation, London, England. Used by permission.