Though his roots are in Southern Turkey and Northern Europe, Santa Claus - as we know him- was born in Manhattan. Jeremy Seal, a New York TImes contributing author, 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 every child in the USA were on NYC each year as they eagerly awaited the gifts that Santa had packed onto his sleigh. However as we all know, Santa did not stay in NYC.
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 $801 on presents this year. Whether we like it or not, Christmas has become 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 local mall. In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it's easy to miss the reason that we celebrate Christmas in the first place. The truth is that Jesus was born to a virgin in ancient Israel. When he had grown up, he went to the Cross and suffered for the very people that drove him there. As Christ died, he experienced the justice of God for us. On the third day, he rose from the grave with a promise to return and bring the justice of God to us. The justice of God means that God loves and cares for the widow, the orphan, the sojourner, and the victim of human trafficking.
In light of this truth, how are we to respond? As we celebrate the birth of Christ this year, we can use our Christmas list to fight human trafficking. With that said, let's take our eyes off the North Pole and look again at Manhattan.
Two Manhattan based organizations, Restore NYC and the Nomi Network recognize this reality. Both fight modern day slavery through 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. However, Jimmy Lee, Restore NYC's Executive Director, explains that even more restoration is needed. "Restoration without being restored to the Father is incomplete," explains Jimmy Lee. For Lee, the Gospel is paramount to the work of abolition.
This Christmas, you can further this work, each time that you purchase a gift on Amazon. Smile.amazon.com is a division of Amazon that gives .5% of the money that you spend on the site to a charity of your choice. When you register, simply select Restore NYC and you can use your purchasing power to bolster the work of these abolitionists in Manhattan.
Another organization headquartered in Manhattan is the Nomi Network (Nominetwork.org). 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 LifeTM products, which are sold in the U.S. to raise funds and awareness of trafficking. Proceeds from the sale of these bags provide wages, healthcare, and training for the "Nomi's" they serve in South and South East Asia.
In other words: with each T-shirt, ornament, bag or iPad case that you buy on their website, you are fighting human trafficking by empowering survivors.( To learn more please watch this short video. ) Through your purchases, you are giving a survivor the economic means to care for her family and stay out of "the life."
As we look toward Manhattan with a renewed vision this year, let's remember the reason that we celebrate Christmas. Christ became like us to experience the justice of God for us so that when he comes back he can bring the justice of God to us. As we celebrate his birth and await His return, I ask you to use your purchasing power to see an end come to global injustice this Christmas. This year give the gift that gives back!