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It seems that the closer we get to Christmas, the more we are inundated with advertisements promoting the latest sales, enticed to buy the perfect gift, and reminded not to forget anyone for whom a gift might possibly be purchased. Graphics depict smiling Santa Clauses, children write letters to Santa and leave him milk and cookies on Christmas Eve night, and people are assumed to be “playing Santa” when they give gifts to others.

However, for many Slovaks, Czechs, and other Central Europeans, Santa Claus doesn’t bring presents on Christmas Eve. In fact, the closest tradition to Santa Claus is observed on December 6, when St. Nicholas (Svätý Mikuláš) brings gifts. The Giver of gifts on Christmas Eve is Ježiško – Baby Jesus!

Some children in Central Europe write letters to Baby Jesus asking for the gifts they want to receive on Christmas Eve. Retail ads market products to those serving as Baby Jesus in their gift-giving, and one retailer in Slovakia and the Czech Republic has even adopted the advertising slogan of  “We are leaving it to Baby Jesus,” as it implies that buying their product will solve your dilemma in providing that perfect gift.

As we reflect on the brokenness in our lives and the challenges we face in our communities and in the world, may we adopt a similar, though spiritually adapted, mantra for this Christmas season as well as for the New Year 2018. Let us give our concerns to our Lord Jesus, giving Him everything in our lives that needs redemption and healing. Let us celebrate His birth in Bethlehem, and His coming again and into our lives as the greatest Gift of all, by gratefully receiving the gifts of life and salvation He gives.  And, let us rejoice that this Gift of a Savior frees us to be as Christ to our neighbor, making a difference in the lives of others.

May the blessings of the Christ Child bring you peace and joy in this Christmas Season and in the coming New Year 2018! And may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!