Today is the time-honored, child-revered, legend-laden Feast of St. Nicholas. Let us celebrate as co-travelers through what is left of mystery and grace left in our world! Something is certainly different about today, and perhaps this is why.
The one everyone knows as Santa Claus has a remarkable history all his own, reaching back to the 3rd century to a monk named Nicholas. Most historians place his birth around 280 A.D. in modern-day Turkey and describe him as someone admired for his beautiful generosity and kindness. Many sources reveal that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside, helping the poor and sick, including three poor sisters, from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married. For the next 17 centuries, Santa Claus has evolved and become the virtual symbol of happy, childlike, innocent fun with an almost magical sense of giving and receiving and spreading goodness throughout the entire year.
It is the kind of existence that is painted by our First Reading today: “Here is your God, he comes with vindication; With divine recompense he comes to save you.” Without drifting needlessly into cynicism, let us state that St. Nicholas is still alive and well in the hearts of those who love Christmas and who never forget the true source and power of the season, Jesus Christ. If we accept the Lord Jesus into our everyday thinking and acting, St. Nick is alive THROUGH us because Jesus is alive IN us. In this second week of Advent waiting and watching for the Birth of Jesus, consider how Christmas both amazes and mystifies our families and friends, especially children. Let us be the miracle people seek, the hope they look for, and the true spirit of love and peace that we all need to experience. It is straight from the mind and heart of Christ: “We have seen incredible things today.”
O good St. Nicholas, you who are the joy of the children, put in my heart the spirit of childhood, which the Gospel speaks, and teach me to seed happiness around me. You, whose feast prepares us for Christmas, open my faith to the mystery of God made man. You good bishop and shepherd, help me to find my place in the Church and inspire the Church to be faithful to the Gospel. O good Saint Nicholas, patron of children, sailors and the helpless, watch over those who pray to Jesus, your Lord and theirs, as well as over those who humble themselves before you. Bring us all in reverence to the Holy Child of Bethlehem, when true joy and peace are found. Amen.