Bankrupt without Love – Mandela, Saint Nicholas, you and I

Nelson Mandela - a man who loved well.

I woke up this morning thinking about Saint Nicholas and Santa and Jesus and how the apparent dichotomy of Christmas all fits together. It was to be a day of cookie making and merriment and enjoying the littles under my wing. I was excited to teach the children about this beautiful man – Saint Nicholas – and how the church right around the world was honoring him today. He was a man of means who gave generously and anonymously to those in need. Out of his life and ministry grew legend and folklore which has morphed and changed through time and cultures, but always, always he’s represented giving and generosity and charity – values originating from the very heart of God.

And then I learned the news of Nelson Mandela’s passing – the father of a nation, a leader of leaders, a hero across borders and boundaries of race, class, politics, and religion. He, too, was a man that inspired millions to live in a different way. He was giving—always giving—hope, inspiration, grace, forgiveness. An ambassador of love – first to a nation in crisis, and then to the whole world perched in waiting, longing for change.

These men – one a priest, one a prisoner and a president – had influence immeasurable among a broken world in need of hope and healing, kindness and love.

I often feel inadequate in knowing how to help my children understand and know the importance of those who have gone before us, paving the way for us to love better, and today was no different as my good intentions gave way to a morning filled with noise and bickering and begging and general life-with-littles chaos. I grappled with tiredness, grumpiness, and feeling resentful, while also feeling the heart tug of remembrance for these great men, a sadness for the loss of one of our generation’s truest heroes, and a stirring in my heart to meditate on Love in its purest form.

It felt like such an ordinary day… and yet an important day, entirely unordinary (or perhaps even extraordinary?).

I have no profound revelation, no tidy conclusions about how to mark this day in a way fitting to how Mandela (or Saint Nicholas) has marked us and changed history. But remembering their lives spurs me to meditate on this passage of love, which rings truer in my heart than anything else in this hour:

The Way of Love (from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians)

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Dear friends – you and I? We’re bankrupt without love. May we be inspired by these great men (and so many others) to let Love lead us and shape us and grow us toward one another. And may we also pursue lives where we spare no effort to love one another well, give generously, and do our small part to make the world a better place.

Adriel xo

About Author

Adriel Booker is an author, speaker, and advocate based in Sydney, Australia who believes storytelling, beauty, and the grace of God will change the world. Adriel has become a trusted voice in areas of motherhood and parenting, Christian spirituality, and global women's issues. She's also known for her work with the Love A Mama Collective—serving under-resourced women in developing nations through safe birth initiatives—as well as her years spent as a Bible teacher and leadership coach. Her latest book is Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss and she's made the companion grief journal available for free. Find Adriel across all social media platforms at @adrielbooker or sign up for LoveNotes, Adriel's 'secret posts' that aren't published anywhere else online. ✌️


  • Bronwyn Lea
    6 December 2013 at 9:18 pm

    I love the connection between Mandela and St Nicholas: both givers and lovers and world-changers… Pointing us to our own precious and ultimate giver, lover and world changer, Jesus.
    Bronwyn Lea recently posted..Nelson Mandela and God’s Providential PurposeMy Profile

  • Lisa @bitesforbabies
    6 December 2013 at 10:14 pm

    I am deeply saddened by his passing. I had the opportunity to visit Robben Island MANY years back when I visited South Africa. At the time, it was an “extra” thing to see while we were there. Things were just starting to change in South Africa and we had little knowledge about the history of the people, Mandela, etc. I remembered being touched back then after hearing his story and SEEING where he was imprisoned. It’s all coming back now that he is gone and I am SO thankful I was able to see his story “first hand!”

  • Rachel
    7 December 2013 at 9:48 pm

    *sigh* three years into this parenting gig and I’m beginning to seriously doubt if any day will ever go according to plan ever again!

    Its hard for me know how much and what exactly Xave absorbs right now. I didn’t remember (or realise) that Mandela’s passing was the same day as St. Nicholas day. In many ways, I can’t wait for Xave to be older (and Eva too) so we can properly talk about world events. Xave simply asked me “Mummy, what you finking about?” Me: “I’m thinking about a great man who was a great leader and great example for everyone in this world.” He didn’t say anything else but I know everything gets stored in that great brain of his somewhere…

    Also — I’m so glad your littles are allowed to talk about the real ‘Santa’…I’m so tired of hearing Christians bash the Santa figure…a Pagan enlightened me just last year to the fact that Santa is actually a Christian addition to the Christmas holiday anyway! Which made me feel much better about having Santa/St. Nicholas as part of our holiday traditions!

  • […] love to help my kids understand the correlation between Santa and Jesus and so Saint Nicholas Day (as celebrated by the church on December 6th) is becoming increasingly important to our Christmas […]

  • Hannah
    1 January 2014 at 8:49 am

    I’ve never heard of St. Nicholas day, is it more of an Australian tradition? Either way, I think I’m going to adopt it when my husband & I have children 🙂
    Hannah recently posted..DIY: New Year’s Nails for $1.99!My Profile


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