Epistle- Heb 13:17-21
Gospel- Luke 6:17-23
Vespers and Healing Service 7pm (St. Seraphim's, High Point)
THE REAL SAINT NICHOLAS:
I thought you might like to know who the real "Santa Claus" is. Our children are often done a disservice by associating Saint Nicholas with receiving anonymous gifts on Christmas morning, while never knowing whom the real Saint Nicholas was. The mythical "Santa Claus" from the "Night before Christmas" while it's become an American tradition, is hardly factual.
Above, you will see an Icon of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was an Archbishop of Myra in Lycia in the fourth century, and yes, he did deliver gifts in the night as I will explain later. St. Nicholas was extremely generous, especially to needy children. In the Icon shown above you will see St. Nicholas wearing a Bishop's vestments, holding a Gospel Book. His right hand is shown in the "Ionic Blessing" posture, which is used to this day in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church when the Priest or Bishop blesses the congregation. The Priest or Bishop holds their right hand so that it forms the Greek letters IC, which stand for "Isous" "Christos", or in English, Jesus Christ. On this Icon, to the right you see Jesus Christ holding a Gospel Book , and on the left, you see the Virgin Mary holding a Bishop's Omophore. You will notice the Omophore as the white cloth with crosses on it draped across his shoulders and over his left arm.
The reason Jesus and Mary are depicted on this Icon is to teach the people about how he was re-instated as Bishop after he was temporarily deposed after striking a Bishop named Arius at the first Ecumenical Council. Arius was trying to introduce a heresy to the teachings of the Church which denied the Divinity of Jesus Christ. St. Nicholas who strongly supported the Divinity of Jesus Christ was provoked to anger by Arius' false claims. The Council disapproved of St. Nicholas' actions and expelled him from his station as Bishop. That evening several of the members of the Council had this vision: They saw Jesus Christ handing St. Nicholas a Gospel Book, and the Virgin Mary placing an Omophore on him. When a Bishop is consecrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church he is given a Gospel book, and an Omophore is placed on him. This vision clearly communicated to the Council members that Jesus Christ wanted St. Nicholas to remain a Bishop in His Holy Church. They re-instated St. Nicholas as Bishop immediately the very next day. The heretic Arius was expelled from the Council and the Divinity of Jesus Christ was affirmed.
St. Nicholas started out as a monk at the Monastery of New Zion which was founded by his uncle. St. Nicholas originally wanted to live a life of solitude devoted exclusively to Jesus Christ. This is most likely where the seclusion at the North Pole came from in the modern "Santa Claus". Jesus Christ appeared to St. Nicholas in a vision and told him that he must work among the people instead of secluding himself if he wanted to receive a crown in Heaven. St. Nicholas obeyed Jesus Christ and went our into the world to work as a Priest, and eventually as a Bishop.
The legend of "Santa Claus" delivering gifts to children at night who were sound asleep comes from the real St. Nicholas' method of doing good deeds as Christ tells us in secret. There was a very poor gentleman in the town that St. Nicholas lived in that had daughters. This family was so poor and deeply in debt that the father decided to sell his three daughters into prostitution. St. Nicholas was so deeply hurt by this man's decision he immediately began to think of ways he could help him without him every knowing about it. St. Nicholas wanted his assistance to be totally anonymous as Jesus Christ taught, so he decided to wait until evening when everyone was asleep, then he would quickly walk by the home of this family and toss a bag of gold through an open window.
After the first sack of gold, the man decided to give his daughter to marriage and used the gold as a dowry. St. Nicholas after learning of this started preparing another sack of gold, and delivered it in the same manner to the family. The father then was able to give his second daughter in marriage and provide a dowry for her as well. The third time that St. Nicholas delivered a bag of gold to the home, the father heard the clink of the gold and ran after St. Nicholas, when he caught up with him he fell at his feet and thanked him for saving his daughters from the evils of prostitution.
Once when there was a great famine in the land of Lycia. St. Nicholas, feeling pity for the unfortunate people who were perishing from hunger, appeared in a dream to a merchant who happened to be in Italy. This merchant has loaded his entire ship with grain and intended to sail to another land. In the dream St. Nicholas promised the merchant three gold coins if he would sail to Myra and sell his grain there. When the merchant woke up, the three coins that St. Nicholas promised him in the dream were in his hand. The merchant decided to sail to Myra and sold the grain to the people, halting the famine.
St. Nicholas was always remembered as a humble, meek and forgiving man. His clothing was simple, he only ate one meal per day, and to orphans he was a father and provider. He often wept for the people he loved and cared for. Truly St. Nicholas was a loving and caring servant of God. I've always been distressed that someone that lived the principles that Jesus Christ taught would be made into such a materialistic being.
It's okay for children to have the experience of "Santa Claus"; however, when they're old enough, they should be taught about the real St. Nicholas and how he loved to give anonymously to the poor and needy. We need to teach our children the value of giving instead of expecting more and more. By allowing our children to grow up materialistic instead of philanthropic, we're not really teaching them the true meaning of Christmas!
St. Nicholas knew the true meaning of Christmas - He gave generously to others of himself, expecting nothing in return! He lived the message that the birth of Christ offered us: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward mankind!" May Jesus Christ touch your hearts in a special way this Christmas. May His Holy Birth remind you of the precious gift God gave us - His Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.