Jolly Ol’ Saint Nicholas
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:10-11
The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that the Lord has provided us with “a great cloud of witnesses,” models of faith and love. Their example of faith points us to Jesus, the One in whom our faith rests. Their acts of service remind us of the good works for which we are recreated in Christ.
One such saint who serves a witness to us is Saint Nichloas. Nicholas served as the bishop of Myra in what is today southwest Turkey, near the Mediterranean Sea. He was renowned for his acts of mercy to those in need. He died in Myra on December 6, 343 AD. Of Nichloas, Philip Pfatteicher writes, “In the absence of facts, legends abound.” (Festivals and Commemorations, p. 442) The most common story passed down through the ages is regarding a poor man whose daughters were going to be sold as prostitutes. However, Bishop Nicholas intervened putting bags of gold coins into their socks, drying by the fireplace. Additional deeds of kindness have been attributed to Nicholas so that his reputation took on mythical proportions.
Dr. Pfatteicher describes the growth of Saint Nicholas through the centuries. He writes, “Because of his enormous popularity, he was impersonated by a man with a white beard, in the vestments of a bishop, who was kind to children. In Holland, even after the Reformation, Sinter Klaas in bishop’s vestments and on a white horse visits children on the eve of his feast day. This popular figure was brought to New York by the Dutch and combined with the English Father Christmas. His day was moved from December 6 to December 25, his bishop’s vesture was replaced by secular clothing, but he retained his cheerful colors, the name Santa Claus, and the traditional association with gift-giving.” (p. 442)
The commemoration of St. Nicholas provides a day to look past the legend and see a servant of Christ and His Church. Nicholas is included on some of the lists of those who attended the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. What we know for sure is that Nicholas is a one who was used by God to serve His church and be a blessing to many. During this Advent season, may we follow his example as we grow in faith by receiving God’s gifts in worship and sharing with those in need in response to all that God has given to us. Thanks be to God for jolly, ol’ Saint Nicholas and his witness!
Prayer – Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people, we thank You for Your servant Nicholas, who was faithful in the care and nurture of Your flock; and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life, we may by Your grace grow into the full stature of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan