Jolly old Saint Nicholas…

Wait… this is a church blog… we can’t talk about him!

Mix up the letters in Santa and you spell Satan!!

Ok, ok, chill out for a second.

We’re talking about St. Nicholas. The historical figure… not the gift giving elf (or human depending on who you ask) that has flying reindeer.

So, who was St. Nicholas?

He was a bishop who is supposed to have lived during the late 3rd and early 4th century AD in the city of Myra in Asia Minor (Modern day Turkey).

As a historical note, Nicholas of Myra survived through the persecution of Diocletian and lived to see Christianity become the official religion of Rome under Constantine.

Tradition states that Nicholas was well loved by the people in Myra because of his love for them and especially the children of the city. He was always giving and sharing what he had. The most famous instance of this was when a local man expressed his concern to Nicholas that his daughters had no money for a dowry and, depending on the story you read, would be forced into slavery.

It is said that Nicholas told the man to pray that God would provide and that he would pray as well. A few days later, as he was praying, God impressed on his heart to be the one who met the need. Late that evening, Nicholas went by the man’s house and dropped three bags of gold coins through the window and they landed by the girls’ shoes. In the morning, the girls awoke to find the gold and realized that their dowry had been provided.

Of course this story cannot be verified and has since been greatly exaggerated and romanticized through the centuries. Due to these exaggerated stories he was declared a Saint by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

In many European Countries, the celebration of St. Nicholas Day takes place on December 6th, the day Nicholas of Myra died. Children leave their shoes by the door on the evening of the 5th and in the morning they are filled with oranges, nuts, and chocolate gold coins. Each country has adopted its own variation with some towns even enlisting citizens to dress up and go door to door with kids reciting verses and singing songs for “St. Nicholas” to receive their goodies. (And don’t get me started with the inclusion of Krampus into the mix of the Dec. 6th Holiday!!)

You can see the obvious parallels to the man we in America call “Santa Clause,” which was really a mispronunciation of “Sinter Klaas” from the Dutch settlers in the New World. The heart of the holiday, though, is the focus on gift giving and caring for the poor. It is good to keep in mind what Paul said in his farewell to the Ephesian Elders (“Bishops” in Asia Minor):

Acts 20:35 (ESV): In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Christmas is not a time to focus on presents and accumulating “stuff.” It is a time to focus on the Birth of our Savior! It is also a time to focus on others, not ourselves, and giving like God gave us His Son, the most amazing gift of all time! We can display Christlikeness in the way we give.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6–7 (ESV)

So where will you give? Who will you bless? What doors will God open for the Gospel because of your generosity this Christmas?

It may be that neighbor who is quite possibly a distant relative of the Grinch…

It might be that kid in school who gives you dirty looks in the hallway…

It could be that relative no one wants to invite to family get-togethers…

It could be your church that will use it to continue doing ministry in the community…

It also doesn’t have to be anything big or expensive. A few homemade cookies can go a long way!

However God is leading you, give! And give with cheer! It is Christmas after all 🙂