The original “Old St. Nick” who inspired the tradition of Santa Claus, Nicholas was bishop of Myra in fourth-century Turkey. Little is known about his life except that he entrusted himself to Jesus at an early age and, when his parents died, gave all of their possessions to the poor. While serving as bishop, Nicholas learned of three girls who were going to be sold into slavery by their father. Moved to use the church’s wealth to ransom the lives of these little ones, he tossed three bags of gold through the family’s window, rumored to have fallen into the stockings hanging to dry by the fire. We remember this ancient Christmas gift, even as we remember that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year in the global sex trade today. He is also said to have protected sailors, spared innocents from excecution, provided grain in a famine, and rescued a kidnapped boy.
We do know that Nicholas was tortured and imprisoned during the persecutions under Roman Emperor Diocletian. After Constantine took the throne and issued the Edict of Milan, Nicholas was released, which makes it possible that the red-robed bishop was present during the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325, during which the Nicene Creed was composed. According to some, Nicholas hit the heretic Arias upside the head during the council. Does he look like someone you would want to mess with? Later, legend has it that Italian merchants stole his body in the eleventh century and removed it to Bari, Italy. From there, Nicholas’ fame spread throughout the Church, both West and East, indirectly leading to the Santa Claus we know today.
Each day of Advent, we will post here a brief meditation on the Coming of Christ; please come back throughout Advent for reflections, art, music, and more.
You’re invited to join us Sunday at 11 am for worship on the Second Sunday of Advent: “Prepare the Way,” featuring the choir’s Christmas Cantata.