God's love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son, that we could have life through him; this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God's love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away. My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another. No one has ever seen God, but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us.... we are to love, then, because He loved us first. (I John 4:9-12, 19 JB)
The family is God's pattern for His Kingdom. God created families to have children, love them, take care of them, teach them, demonstrate a Godly life. Children are intended to learn to love their parents, to want to please their parents, and learn from them. God relates to us as a Father; just as we love our children before they are able to return our love, God loves us first, and it is in His strength and grace that we respond by loving Him, and then we are made able to love each other. Jesus then brings it full circle: "I tell you solemnly, inso far as you [showed love] to the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:40 JB) Jesus Himself fulfilled what Moses saw of God at the Red Sea: " In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling." (Exodus 15:13 NIV)
We cannot do it right on our own! Too often we experience what we think of as "love" that is really an emotional high that feeds our own feelings, or that we do in expectation of a return to ourselves. We see all of this during this Christmas season--we want the warm fuzzies for ourselves, and give in order to get. I am glad that the remembrance of God's servant St Nicholas has become associated with Christmas; the stories that we have of him tell of giving anonymously to children and families without credit, reward, or return; and we can give like this in the name and spirit of St Nicholas, who did these things in the name of Jesus.