St. Nicholas, Gifts and Christmas

Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , , , | Posted On Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 6:16 AM

In the Centuries following Jesus’ death Christianity was outlawed in the Roman Empire.

Late in the third century a man named Nicholas was born, who went on to become at a very young age the Bishop of Myra, while Christianity was still outlawed. This Bishop of Myra, Nicholas, later was recognized as a saint and called Saint Nicholas. He was known for his generosity to people in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

One of the most famous stories about Nicholas demonstrates his great love for children. The story says a poor man had three daughters. He was too poor to offer a dowry, which likely meant the girls would never marry and would probably be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home, providing the needed dowries.

It is said Nicholas tossed the dowry through an open window or down the chimney and landed in stockings left by the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings to eagerly await a gift from St. Nicholas.

Through this story and many more, Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, and later, St. Nicholas, became known as a very generous, loving person, especially known as a gift-giver who had special concern for children, especially those who had little.

Within a few hundred years the story of St. Nicholas merged with the Christmas story, and it became common to give simple and needed gifts at Christmas, especially to children.

Genuine gift-giving should never be out of compulsion or to see what we get in return. Giving gifts is a way of expressing love and gratitude. Giving gifts at Christmas isn’t simply about what we get, but reminds us of what God has already done for us in Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT2): “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” 

Salvation is a gift from God – something we can’t earn or cause or bring about ourselves. It is a gift, given out of sheer undeserved grace that tells us so much about God. True gifts are always like that – they tell us more about the giver than the one who receives it. As St. Nicholas gave to needy children, it said everything about his true character and concerns.

Yet, God doesn’t give us a gift just to sit around and admire – He gives us this gift of grace in Jesus Christ to transform our lives, so that He can use us to transform the lives of others.

God’s Christmas is about giving a gift that no one deserves, but He gives anyway, so that we, too, can give that same gift to others. And they don’t deserve it anymore than we do. Yet, when we fail to give this gift, we’ve missed the point of the gift in the first place. The gift is always given to encourage others to give.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (NLT2): “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’”