We all know that the man in red is supposed to be benevolent. He symbolizes a Turkish 4th century bishop of wealthy Greek ancestry who went about surreptitiously helping poor children by dropping off gifts, such as bags of gold (to save girls from being sold as prostitutes). The modern representation pales in comparison to Nicholas' wildly political origins, seeking justice, upsetting the status quo, undergoing torture, etc. However they both have in common a symbol of good will, of generosity, of safety, of kindness, of being squarely on the side of the voiceless children and willing to bless them. And they both have in common the personification of some attributes of God.
We, like Mr. Cuteness, however, are not quite sure. Is God really good? Will God really come through with what we need? Do we really want to be that close? Can we really trust? Is he only going to bless the deserving, and will I make the "nice" cut? Who is this person, and should I perhaps run and hide behind some figs?
Because we have about the same relative wisdom and emotional maturity of the toddler in this photo (actually probably less, as his faith has not yet been molded by misinformation). I can talk about GRACE but rarely rise above the naughty and nice cloud. And even though I think I can plan a good win-win ending for everyone I love, I can't. Fixing this universe beset by the ADF attacking in the midst of an Ebola epidemic, or our friend in Baltimore violently retching after the next round of chemo, or people we love going to bed lonely, is all beyond us.
So this Christmas, let's lean into Goodness. For some of us the sound of bells may be so distant that we feel forgotten. But let us remind each other that the real God pulls us close. The Kingdom of Heaven has come near. Even if we feel a little unsettled by the too-good-to-be-true truth of love, let's help each other live AS IF our lives rested on God's lap.