Dear Friends December: Christmas & St. Nick


Dear Friends,

Firstly – thank you for the past year. All Saints is a fantastic church and I feel privileged to be part of the family. It is exciting to be celebrating our second Christmas together.

Christmas is a time of myths and miracles. Some of the myths we willingly embrace – like Santa Claus or St. Nicholas. 

Detail: The Life & Miracles of Saint Nicholas
Artist: Alexander Boguslawski
St. Nicholas was a real person, although it is hard to verify many of the stories about him. However the meaning behind them speaks to us still today. Nicholas lived in the fourth century, and from a young age was very pious, fasting every Wednesday and Friday as was the practice of the early church. Having lost his wealthy Christian parents he was brought up by his uncle, who encouraged him in his vocation as he became a Reader and later a Priest and a Bishop. He is known as Nicholas the Wonderworker, having many miracles attributed to his name, and is a patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, students and of course children.

On one occasion he is recorded saving a group of children from a cannibalistic butcher, who had salted them in barrels to be sold as meat, but St. Nicholas caught the butcher and restored the children to life. The most famous story revolves around three girls for whom their poor father could not afford a dowry, and so they were threatened with being forced into prostitution. Nicholas provided the poor man with enough money for a dowry for the girls, a purse of gold for each child delivered through an open window. A later legend suggests he dropped the gold down the chimney where it fell into the daughters stockings they had hung up to dry by the fire – although chimneys did not exist in 4th Century Lycia where Nicholas lived!

Nicholas then was a preserver of childhood innocence, something we value at Christmas especially, and something that seems to have been eroded in our culture. Nicholas reminds us however that there have always been those who would use their power to abuse the trust of young people, and as a whole society we have a responsibility to educate and protect our youngest and most vulnerable members. The actions of a few however must not cause us to live in fear - there are many modern day St. Nicholas’ helping our children: teachers, youth workers, uniformed organisations, charities and social workers as well of course as parents and families - we should be thankful for all they do.

In one version of the legend of the three girl’s dowry, our saint is caught by the father, who asks him why he is giving the money in secret. The response is natural and obvious; Nicholas wished the glory and praise to go to God and not to him. Nicholas may be at the heart of our Christmas celebrations in the form of Santa, but he would not want our attention to linger on him. He devoted his life to Christ and would want us to do the same.

The Christ-Mass is a very special time for Christians; we celebrate not the myth but the miracle of Christ - God with us in the flesh. We do so through the Mass, the offering of bread and wine in which Jesus promised he would be truly present with us until he returns. It is a deep and powerful wonder that is worked among us when we gather at this feast, be it at midnight or on Christmas morning. We should come to Holy Communion as we always come, prepared and anticipating an encounter with God as we join with Angels, Archangels, St. Nicholas and all the saints in heavenly worship.

May you and your families have a blessed Christmas, filled with the joy of the Christ Child and the presence of the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father.

Eddie

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