Setting our stockings out before heading to bed. Falling asleep in anticipation of what the morning might bring. Waking with excitement and running to see what our gifts would be.
Families around the world celebrate this day in different ways. And nope, it’s not even Christmas.
December 6 is St. Nicholas’ Day. Have your heard of it? Do you celebrate? In Ukraine, children wait for St. Nicholas to come and put a present under their pillows – providing they’ve been good during the year. If not, they may find coal…or whipping stick if they’ve been naughty. In Germany, children may put a boot outside their front door hoping Sankt Nikolaus fills it with gifts and sweets overnight if they’ve behaved.
The legends of Saint Nicholas, Sankt Nikolaus, San Nicola, Sinterklass, have become what today we consider Santa Claus. And today’s Santa is very concerned if you’ve been bad or good – for goodness’ sake!
But who was Saint Nicholas, really? He was a man, not just a legend, who lived during the third century in an area that is now part of Turkey. He was born to wealthy Christian parents, who both died while he was a young man. Nicholas spent his life, and his inheritance, helping those in need. Nicholas became a bishop in the church and was well-known for his generosity and his love for children.
One story from Nicholas’ life may sound familiar. There was a poor man with three daughters; he had no money to serve as a dowry for them. This meant his girls would be unlikely to marry, and might be looking at a life of slavery. On three separate occasions, bags of gold were found in their home. They had been tossed through an open window by Nickolas, landing in their stockings and shoes that had been left by the fire to dry.
Eventually, Nickolas was persecuted and imprisoned for his faith. After his release, he attended the Council of Nicaea, defending the deity of Christ. The anniversary of his death, December 6th, became a day of celebration in the church.
This Saint Nicholas reminds us of God’s unconditional love – and can point us to Christ in Christmas. Unlike the Santa Claus of today, who is concerned with whether we’ve been “good” or “bad”, Nickolas loved freely and gave generously. He stood by his faith even if it meant persecution and imprisonment. He lived his life sacrificially, helping and serving others. All while pointing people to Jesus.
Tomorrow is St. Nick’s Day. It’s not too late to leave out your boots. Will you join in the celebration?