We are living in a challenging time. The year 2019 is about to come to an end and 2020 is just around the corner. Sadly, the world is once again divided. I was thinking the other day that perhaps what we need is the inspiration of St. Nicholas. Or maybe even Santa Claus.
St Nicholas was born to wealthy parents. He inherited their fortune after their death. When he was young his uncle, a bishop, raised him and mentored him. Nicholas became a priest and later a bishop. He was always known to have a giving heart. The famous story associated with Nicholas’ giving nature was a simple one. Nicholas learned of a poor nobleman who had three unmarried daughters about to be sold into slavery because their father had no money for dowries. Women were in a precarious situation without a dowry.
The young bishop went out in the middle of the night and slipped a sack of gold through the window of the nobleman’s house. Later two other sacks arrived the same one. The father soon learned it was Nicholas’ doing. He approached him to express his thanks. The humble bishop said, “No, all thanks go to God, not me.” He believed that when we give, we should do so in Christ’s name; not our own.
Bishop Nicholas was exiled and imprisoned during the persecution of Christians by Roman Emperor Diocletian. He was imprisoned for his faith until Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion. He participated in the first ecumenical council of the early Christian Church and produced the first uniform Christian doctrine, the Nicene Creed.
His feast day is December 6. The New York Historical Society made St. Nicholas the patron saint of the city. A poem was written in 1822 entitled “A visit from St. Nicholas;” Clement C. Moore’s poem is better known now as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist, created a drawing of a rotund Santa with a long flowing beard, fur garments, and a clay pipe. This influenced the creation of Santa Claus, whose back story is of a simple Christian bishop who loved God and wanted that faith in God shared by everyone!
I think we need to be reminded that St. Nicholas and yes, Santa Claus is all about giving! This means that we need to love everyone as Jesus loved. We need to stop the hatred, the divisive words, the constant criticism of each other — and get back to love!
If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. (Romans 12:18)
This Christmas as we gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus with our families and friends, I would hope that at some point our family discussions lead to talking about the reason for the Christmas season. The true meaning of the life of Jesus. Maybe I’m hoping for too much. But, maybe not. Jesus was born in a stable and 2000 years later He is still influencing our story of love.
St. Nicholas took up his banner as did so many other saints. I think it was best said in an editorial in 1897 in the New York Sun.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, “If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.”
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. …
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Copyright 2019 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh