On Wednesday, a period will begin that holds significance to many believers of Jesus Christ. Lent, which historically and symbolically calls for increased devotion and piety for the forty days leading up to the observance of the Holy Week, will become a time when many will give up something that they hold dear in their lives. For some it is food or habits while for others it is much more personal.
Still, others tend to use this time of Lent to draw closer to Christ's teachings regarding giving and helping their fellow man. Many will take these next few weeks and spend much more time not only in devotion to Christ but also in working charitable deeds and helping the helpless. Since Lent is now observed by both Catholic and Protestant, many Christians who do not hold to the Catholic doctrines and traditions will observe this time in giving.
In writing about Christmas culture, customs, and how they relate to our lives throughout the year, I cannot help but notice that the message of giving is prevelent in both. Christmas is a time of giving, when God sent forth His only Son into a cruel world. Christ is not only the greatest gift of Christmas but is also the greatest gift of our entire calendar. Not only is He the Savior, but He is an example that shows us the true meaning of love. Love is the second most precious gift life has to offer.
Love and giving also show themselves to the world in Christian culture through the life and deeds of Saint Nicholas of Myra, better known as Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas not only embraced Christianity but also took Christ's teachings of giving without expectation and made them the stuff of legend. Many benefited from his generosity, all of which he dedicated to Christ. He gave cheerfully and in secret, both practices being Biblical and within the teachings of the early Church.
Lent in this way is not only a reminder of Christ but is also a reminder of the works of Saint Nicholas. The theme is giving, not just giving away. For those who observe a giving away of something, they learn to give back to God an increased devotion. To others who spend their times in charity work, they are living first hand the examples of Christ and Nicholas. It is a challenge to seek further devotion, a practice of building a way in our own life as to how to serve more, and also a first hand chance through Christ to change the world through giving.
For those who give away this Lenten Season, what will you give and what will you gain? For those who will serve others, will this continue beyond this Season? Whatever is decided let us be sure that it will be done in love of both Christ and the Faith.