We know very little about him. He is perhaps the best known and surely one of the most beloved men in church history. He was born in Asia Minor and as a young man made a pilgrimage to Egypt and the land of Israel. In the fourth century he was the Bishop of Myra in modern day Turkey. He was put into prison during the persecution of Christians by Diocletian. When Constantine became emperor, Nicholas was released. He was in attendance at the Council of Nicaea.
There have been many legends to spring about him. Most of us have heard this one. A poor widower could not afford to give his three daughters a dowery, so they could not get married. Nicholas came from a wealthy family. Upon learning about the poor girls fates, he dropped a bag of gold down a chimney, which empowered her to be married. (Some say, he tossed it through a window.) Then a few nights later he repeated the act for the second daughter and finally for the third.
His story has evolved over the years in different ways. Churches have been named after him. When Clement Clarke Moore wrote The Night Before Christmas for his children in 1822 and then published it in the Troy Sentinel December 23, 1823, St. Nick became a cute, lovable elf miraculously visiting boys and girls around the world. “His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! … He was chubby and plumb, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself.”
Saint Nicholas, a Christian, protecting and providing for vulnerable and marginalized girls trapped in poverty. Today he gives gifts to good boys and girls and still travels supernaturally around the world in the imaginations of boys and girls. He is a symbol of kindness, gentleness, generosity, joy, and the “miracle of Christmas.”
My take away as a young Dad was to be sure to tell my children the Nativity stories and sing the songs of a faith. We read books about the real Saint Nicholas and enjoyed the poems of Moore, and movies like the Santa Clause. We shared joyfully with others less fortunate than ourselves. The miracle of Christmas was ours in Christ to share. And in the dark cold days of winter, the fictional stores of a flying reindeer and an elf dressed in red that my parents read to me still bring a smile to my face.
I think I’ll put on my cap and go to bed now!