James 5:1 (KJV) Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Truth About St. Nicholas

Yes, St. Nicholas was a real person who lived in what is now Turkey.

He was a little man about five feet tall, a cardinal known as Nicholas of Myra and would have been seen in his long red robes. His picture is seen in early Christian art where he has a white beard and is somewhat bald. He came from a committed Christian family, and it was in his childhood that he learned the gift of giving from his parents.


Nicholas became aware of a man with three daughters who had lost everything and moved to a slum, where the man was attempting to sell his oldest daughter to raise enough money to raise his two younger daughters.

night before the girl was to be sold Nicholas waited outside the home for the lights to go out, upon which he tossed a sack full of gold through an open window and quickly disappeared before they could discover him. The money was enough to last the family for over a year, after which the father once again felt forced to consider selling the daughter once again. Nicholas again secretly delivered a bag of gold. But this time he was caught in the act.

Wiping away his tears of gratitude the man asked Nicholas why he had given them such large gifts, and why he kept it a secret. Nicholas replied, "Because it's good to give when only God knows about it."


Nicholas' mother and father both died, probably of the plague, when he was just a teen. During that period of devastating grief his uncle Nicholas -- himself a priest -- prayed with young "Nick" for peace. During this time he discovered a deep sense of urgency to memorialize his parents with the fortune his parents left him. After giving everything he had to the poor and needy he felt a call to study to become more like Christ and was admitted into a monastery school.

This previously wealthy young man went into the priesthood while probably still a teenager. During this time period of great Christian persecution under both emperor Diocletian and Maximian, Nicholas was imprisoned for his faith. He saw in this an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with his fellow inmates, following Paul's example in the New Testament.

When Nicholas was released he was elected Bishop of Myra.
He used his position to oversee a period of ministering to the poor, placing orphans in homes and seeing that these people had all their needs met. He was a well-known figure as he carried a bag of candy and gifts wherever he went, and children loved him and followed him whenever he came out into the streets.

He still attempted to keep his good works a secret by dropping coins into windows and leaving clothing or food on the porches. His fellow clerics knew it was he who was distributing these gifts, Nicholas did not allow the information to get to the public.
When some of the poor inevitably told him of their good fortune in receiving these gifts Nicholas would smile and tell them that God had heard and answered their prayers. In the more remote areas the people had no idea that he was a cleric, and thus a legend grew that he was an angel dressed in red.

Nicholas used the opportunity to tell everyone, especially many children, about Jesus Christ and the gift He gave through his death on the cross and he would assure the children how much Jesus loves the little children.


St. Nicholas took the Lord's instruction seriously and saw himself as a shepherd of lost sheep who sorely needed a message of hope. His unselfish work for the lost and needy were so great that his work grew into a legend so great that when he died people followed his example, becoming a widespread practice among the people to leave gifts for others. Many churches were named after him.

It was his great example of a generous and godly spirit which grew into the tradition of Santa Claus, and that spirit of giving continued down through the years.

While many Christians rightly complain about the commercialization of Christmas we have the ability to go back to the simple example of St. Nicholas. We can present Jesus Christ as the primary gift, and give our gifts as a remembrance of the gospel.

We have a powerful tool at Christmas to change the focus back to where it belongs: to the greatest gift of all time, salvation. Give homemade gifts, enjoy the lights and ornaments, but use it as a time to teach the reason behind the tradition.

Take back Christmas and its true meaning!