St. Nicholas, patron saint to children and sailors. St. Nicholas also was a preserver of orthodoxy who slapped, possibly punched Arius, the heretical bishop.
Jolly St. Nic as the song says was the bishop of Myra (in Asia Minor). He was the shepherd of his flock which included those in the surrounding villages. In obedience to Christ, he gave what he had to the poor. In secret, he would give needed food or household items to those in need. He is known to have brought three murdered children or students (the story varies) back to life. He is known to have blessed ships as they took to the peril of the seas and even showing up (like Christ on the waters of Galilee) to sailors who asked for his prayers while in peril. He is also known to have slapped or punched Arius, the heretic spreading his false teaching that Christ is less than God.
In the fourth century, St. Nicholas faced similar moral lapses and sinfulness that we face today. Murder is prevalent, people’s hearts turn toward other things than God, the earth is still a beautiful, but perilous place, and pagan and Gnostic spirituality is still encouraged and taught.
St. Nicholas must be remembered as one who not only helped the poor, but one who defended the orthodoxy of the Christian faith. His feast day was on December 6th. As we, in the West, are rushing around buying presents for our families and friends, remember what this life is truly about. It is not about being generous one month out of the year, but it is also about following Christ all the days of our lives. It is about teaching and defending the orthodoxy of the Christian faith and not letting the post-modern, relativistic philosophy of the age confusing Christians and non-Christians alike.
The cheapening of the Christmas season with consumerism that drives people wild for the latest electronic device is not in keeping with St. Nicholas or the Nativity of Christ. We are becoming a new pagan society, where materialism, fear, despair, apathy, and complacency are our gods that must be assuaged.
Respecting Christ coming into history is following St. Nicholas’ model of obedience and longing for Christ. It is following Christ in our infancy to our adulthood. It is welcoming the Savior of the world into our lives and following him on this road of suffering and joy, for the glory of the Kingdom of God, where the King of heaven is subjecting all to him. Where one day all will bend the knee to Christ the King.
Let us remember St. Nicholas, not as the jolly giver of gifts for the sake of consumerism, but as the giver of gifts to the poor, those who have nothing. The greatest gift given is that of salvation. St. Nicholas, the upholder of the faith—exemplifying what it means to follow Jesus Christ.