St. Nicholas was a 4th century Greek bishop from Myra, a city on what is now the Turkish coast. A chapel has recently been uncovered there. History and legend overlap, but what seems secure is that he was a deeply religious man who loved the text and was a generous and compassionate giver.
Nicholas was very learned and respected for his theological understanding. In fact, when Constantine called the first ecumenical council in 325 AD, Nicholas joined them in Nicaea. He passionately fought off some heretical beliefs that were beginning to creep into the church. The Nicene Creed was birthed from those debates.
But Nicholas wasn’t a reclusive bookworm or dry academic. He loved to give and he often gave secretly. He came from wealth and he used what he had to care for the sick and poor. He was engaged in his community and he gave in specific and meaningful ways. The legends surrounding him include secretly providing dowries so poor girls could marry (otherwise they would have been forced into prostitution to survive). Or as he passed doorsteps at night, he would put coins in shoes of poor children. He is also credited with getting the emperor to reduce the oppressive taxes that were impoverishing the city. There are several miracles attributed to this devoted Christian, earning him the name “Nicholas the wonderworker”.
Our traditions connect us with our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the centuries and their examples can encourage our walk. Nicholas loved God and he provides a model for us in his devotion to the text and in compassionate giving. St. Nick did, in fact, work for Jesus. I am reminded this season that I do too.
Will you be like St. Nick for anyone this year?