Well, it is the season, the season for Christmas music! Love them or hate them, these familiar tunes fill the air during this joyous time. One does not have to look hard to find them either; it seems that many of our local radio stations started playing these songs even before Thanksgiving! You hear of white Christmas’ and stars dancing across the sky, but my favorite nonchurch hymn is “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.” You know the tune, “Jolly old Saint Nicholas, lean your ear this way, don’t you tell a single soul what I’m going to say…” This song reminds us of the fun of Christmas – Santa Claus, gifts, and family. As pastors (at least in my tradition), we try to keep the two separate: Christmas in its true sense and the coming of Jesus the Christ child, and that of Santa Claus and his reindeer’s in the secular/ commercial sense. But believe it or not, there is a lot that we can learn from jolly old Saint Nick.
Now St. Nicholas was not always St. Nicholas. Born Nicholas of Bari in the early third century, he grew up in what is now modern-day Turkey. Raised in a Christian home, he was a person of devout faith in Christ. Nicholas lived out his faith in all that he did and held strong to it after losing his parents as a young man. Legend has it that rather than taking his inheritance and spending it on himself, he devoted his life to the poor and less fortunate in his community. Leaving small bags of coins on the doorsteps of those in need, Nicholas worked to ensure people, especially children had the necessities of life. One story tells of Nicholas caring for a family who was being forced to give their children into servanthood, but rather than seeing this family torn apart, Nicholas paid the debts that were owed. Again, leaving three small sacks of money over the course of three nights, one for each of the children, Nicholas ensured this family would remain together.
Nicholas went on to become Bishop of the Christian churches of Myra in Asia Minor and continued to do many great things for the good of God’s people. His reputation and example of selflessness for children and the poor lived on long after his death. So much so that he was canonized in the early fifteenth century, and his feast day is celebrated by many of the mainline denominations today. On this day, we are invited to place our stockings or shoes by the door in hopes of finding a few gold coins left there the next morning (chocolate ones, of course).
During this holiday season, St. Nicholas offers us the perfect example of how to enter this festive time. No matter our faith tradition – rather than simply marking the days off the calendar, waiting for Christmas to finally come. Jolly old Saint Nick reminds us to actively wait by caring for all God’s people in need.
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.