Today is St. Nicholas’ Day. Many of us think of St. Nicholas as the jolly fat man that shimmies down our chimneys every year (even those of us who don’t have a fireplace), but St. Nicholas was, in fact, a real person, and there is a lot we can learn from the life he lived.
St. Nicholas was born in Patara, which used to be part of Greece, but is now part of Turkey. When he was a young boy, his parents passed away. He resolved to follow the teachings of Jesus, giving up his inheritance to help the poor. We celebrate his feast day on December 6th, the day of his death. We can learn some important lessons from this man, lessons about generosity, self-sacrifice, and his unwavering faith.
Many of our legends surrounding Santa Clause come from stories about St. Nicholas. One such story tells of a man and his three daughters. This man was poor, but having three daughters, he had to provide three dowries in order for them to marry. While having unmarried daughters might not seem like such a bad thing today, in St. Nicholas’ time, unmarried women were sold into slavery. As the story goes, St. Nicholas provided the family with bags of gold on three separate occasions, and the girls were able to marry. Some even go as far as to explain how the gold came through the windows and landed in stockings and shoes set by the fire to dry. Sound familiar?
St. Nicholas’ passion for giving is a major motivator of the commercial Christmas we celebrate today. At this time of year, it is important we remember him and realize that Christmas is not about receiving gifts, but giving to the people around us.
Acts 20:35 “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
In our material world, it is difficult not to get caught up with stuff. We want nice houses. We want nice cars. We want nice clothes. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having nice things, but it is important that people manage their greed and keep ahold of perspective. This looks different for a lot of people. For me, it means that if I can afford a $4.00 latte every morning, I should probably scale that back and find somewhere better to spend my money. I enjoy supporting my local coffee shop because they are awesome, but maybe I can buy one latte a week and use the money I have saved to benefit someone who can’t even afford black coffee some days.
Luke 3:11 “John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
St. Nicholas was prosecuted by the Romans for his faith. He was arrested and imprisoned for a long time. Many saints have similar stories of prosecution for their beliefs, and I think it is admirable at how faithful they are about what they believe in. Even when faced with the possibility of imprisonment or death, St. Nicholas never denounced his beliefs. Whether we’re talking about belief in God or simply belief in values, St. Nicholas teaches us to stand up for what we believe in without giving in to others who aim to tear us down.
Luke 22:32 “but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
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