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FIRST-PERSON: Give the gift of freedom

NEW YORK (BP) — Though his roots are in southern Turkey and northern Europe, the commercialized Santa Claus as he is known in today’s culture was born in Manhattan.

New York Times writer Jeremy Seal quotes a Cincinnati newspaper from 1844 stating that “the sterling old Dutchman, Santa Claus, has just arrived from the renowned regions of the Manhattoes,” or Manhattan, “with his usual budget of knickknacks for the Christmas times.”

Manhattan is where the commercialized Santa Claus originated. The eyes of children in the United States were on New York each year as they eagerly awaited the gifts that Santa had packed onto his sleigh. But as we all know, Santa did not stay in New York.

For many, the larger than life figure of old St. Nick has eclipsed the small child born in Bethlehem. According to the American Research Group, shoppers plan to spend an average of $800 on presents this year. Whether we like it or not, Christmas is a commercial holiday. The weak and the vulnerable are probably the last thought that we have as we try to find a parking spot at the mall.

In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to miss the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Among other things, Christmas reminds us that God cares about justice. He sent His Son to die on the cross and bear the just punishment for our sins.

When Jesus returns, He will restore justice to the entire created order. As we await his second coming, we should work to bring justice to the vulnerable — people such as the widow, the orphan, the sojourner … and the victim of human trafficking.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ this year, we can use our Christmas list to fight human trafficking. Let’s take our eyes off the North Pole and look again at Manhattan, for example.

Restore NYC and the Nomi Network are among the growing number of organizations across the country fighting modern-day slavery by generating awareness and caring for survivors of human trafficking.

Restore NYC is an aftercare program in the city for foreign-born survivors of sex trafficking. According to Restorenyc.org, their mission is to “end sex trafficking in New York and restore the well-being and independence of foreign-national survivors.”

When a girl moves into a Restore safe house, her restoration begins. Through counseling and basic job skills, she is placed on the road to healing. But Jimmy Lee, Restore NYC’s executive director, said even more restoration is needed.

“Restoration without being restored to the Father is incomplete,” Lee said. The Gospel is paramount to the work of abolition.

The Nomi Network, nominetwork.org, is named after a survivor of sex trafficking. Nomi exists to restore survivors of sex trafficking in India and Cambodia.

The Nomi Network manufactures their signature “Buy Her Bag Not Her Body” and “Made for a Better Life” products, which are sold in the United States to raise funds and awareness of trafficking. Proceeds from the sale of the bags provide wages, health care and training for the victims they serve in Asia.

As you celebrate Christ’s birth and await His return, I urge you to help bring justice for the vulnerable whether in New York or wherever you may live.
Raleigh Sadler is a North American Mission Board missionary (@raleighsadler) and college pastor at Gallery Church in New York City. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Raleigh Sadler