The Real Santa Claus

I was directed to another blog by a good friend about the real St. Nicholas (you can view it in its entirety here). Some Coles notes; "He used his entire inheritance to help the poor, sick, and children in need... Nicholas saved young women from slavery, protected sailors, spared innocents from execution, provided grain in a famine and rescued a kidnapped boy."

The blogger and I agree that when Santa becomes nothing more than a reason to indulge even more in the consumerism that already consumes us we have missed the point. I love the image he uses of St. Nicolas responding to our current portrayal of him, "You want me to fly through the air, slide down your chimney and give you stuff? How about I kick down your door and take all your money and give it people who need it?"

One thing seems to harness the things that St. Nicholas did (although some is likely to be legend and folklore); Protecting the weak and oppressed against the powerful.

I had the great privilege of taking my kids to the picket lines this past Tuesday to support our local teachers in their one-day strike against the controversial Bill 115 that is seeking to strip the teachers of their collective bargaining rights. The Bill, which takes effect Jan. 1 allows the government to impose employment conditions on teachers, robbing them of the rights that many teachers over many years fought to gain. (See below the GREAT photo of my youngest daughter on the picket line! So proud!)

Many of the voices that I hear who don't support the teachers seem to be focused on one main thing; they think the teachers have it too good. Good salary, pension, holidays etc. It appears that because they have more than some, we are happy to see some of it potentially stripped from them. This issue really isn't about teachers wanting more, or even wanting to keep what they have, it is about them keeping the power to have a voice in how those decisions are made.

Make no mistake about it; teachers are working class. It is the rich and powerful  who have been sucking more and more wealth out of the system and the way the government allows it to happen (even aids it) which has created the governments short-fall of funds, but it is the middle, working class that the government is trying to suck it back from. This is the powerful oppressing the weak, plain and simple. Christmas seems the perfect time for the teachers to stand up and do something about it... very St. Nicholas of them.

But not just St. Nicholas; everywhere I look I see Christmas shouting out that is about standing up to the powerful. The story of Mary herself shouts it out. She is visited by an angel and told she will become pregnant and will have a son whom she will name Jesus who will have a never-ending Kingdom." One of Mary's responses to this is a song which includes the lyrics;

”He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty."

The hungry are filled? The rich sent away empty? This is how it works by the way... in order for the poor and humble to be lifted up the 'powerful' must be brought down.  Excess and wealth create poverty; for everyone to have enough it means the end of 'too much'.

The top 1% of Americans own as much wealth as the bottom 95% put together.

There are more slaves in the world today than during the African slave trade.

These are not mutually exclusive statements. Too fight against the latter, we must fight against the former. I further suggest that fight would be real Christmas!

On Wednesday night in our weekly movie program at The Dam's Meadowvale Drop-in we watched It's A Wonderful Life. While I remembered the message of realizing the beauty in your life, what I forgot was the prevalent theme of the weak and poor standing up against the powerful. Mr. Potter is the resident capitalist, he manages to buy pretty much everything in the town except for the Bailey Building and Loan which has helped families build homes and doesn't foreclose on those homes when they can't make their mortgage payments. They work with the community to help families get established and get out of Potter's slums where he collects high rents on horrible dwellings. Less families paying rent means less money for Potter who does everything he can to put the Building and Loan out of business.

Time and again George Bailey gives up on his dreams and sacrifices to make sure Potter doesn't win and the people of Bedford Falls have a chance to get out from under his thumb. While this leads to frustration and even desperation at times for Bailey, in the end, this film shows the importance of someone like George Bailey, someone who will give up much to stand up to the powerful on behalf of the weak and oppressed.

George Bailey sounds a whole lot like Santa Claus... a whole lot like what the baby promised to Mary was supposed to be about. This is a real Christmas movie!

We are not honouring the memory of St. Nicholas by participating in a market system where oppression of the weak is the norm. Christmas isn't really Christmas unless we are actively participating in tearing down systems of oppression, supporting the working class and poor in their struggle against the powerful, fighting against slavery, feeding the hungry.

There is a hard part here though. It requires sacrifice. St. Nicholas gave away everything he had before standing up to slave-owners and executioners. Mary lived in poverty herself and Jesus encouraged his followers to give everything they had to the poor. George Bailey's battle against Potter came at great personal cost. It's not enough to point the finger at the 1%, we must be willing to be the humble, the poor and the weak ones ourselves. We will battle from a position of weakness, not strength, and we will overcome! That's Christmas!

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