St. Nicholas and the Blessing of God’s Spirit of Love – The Rev. Michelle Meech
December 04, 2022
Today is All Ages Worship and so we have a story instead of a sermon so we’re using readings that help us to know more about St. Nicholas today.
Once upon a time in a small town by the sea called Patara, in a place we now call Turkey, a man called Theophanes and a woman called Nona had a son they named Nicholas. Theophanes and Nona were quite wealthy and could afford young Nicholas all the things he needed as well as a good education. They were also devout Christians and they ensured that Nicholas was well schooled in the teachings of Jesus and they gave generously to many causes that helped many people.
So Nicholas grew up reading scripture and learning Jesus’ two commandments – Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself, lessons he learned not only by reading about Jesus, but also by paying attention to the example of generous giving his parents offered. They considered their wealth a blessing and they wanted to offer that blessing to others who did not have the same opportunities they did.
Nicholas’ uncle was also a devout Christian. As a matter of fact, he was a bishop of the church in Patera and he founded a monastery – a place where people go to dedicate themselves fully to God. And as Nicholas grew older, he started learning from his uncle too and decided to devote his life to God. He became a priest and lived in the monastery.
Soon after this, Nicholas’ parents died from illness and he was left with quite a lot of money. Nicholas, of course, knew that he had all he needed so instead of buying things for himself, he began to give his money away to those who were poor and those who were hungry, offering these gifts as a blessing. Nicholas became known for his kindness and generosity and always felt that he received a blessing every time he gave a gift to someone.
One day, it came to Nicholas’ attention that a man who had once been wealthy but had lost his fortune and fallen into poverty, was having trouble with the people he owed money to. These people we call creditors. And the creditors threatened to take his three adult daughters into slavery unless he would pay them what he owed.
The laws were different in that time, you see. The man knew that, if his daughters were married, they would be safe from slavery because the law would protect them. Also, in that time, however, women could not be married unless their family was able to pay something called a dowry – a sum of money to support the young couple in their new life. And the father, as we know, had no money.
When Nicholas heard about this, he considered what he should do. He didn’t want to embarrass the man who used to be wealthy by giving him the money in front of others and he didn’t want to draw attention to himself as the giver of the gift. He just wanted the family’s suffering to be relieved.
So, he went out at night with a bag of gold. When he came to the house of this family, he opened one of the windows slightly and threw the bag of coins inside. Now this window happened to be nearby the fireplace, where the socks and shoes were drying by the heat of the fire. And as the bag hit the floor, it split open and gold coins went flying into the shoes and socks.
When the man woke up the next day, he discovered the coins and thanked God for this gift, even though he was a bit confused about how it happened. He was too desperate to worry too much about it though. Because after counting the coins, he realized it was just enough for a dowry for his oldest daughter and to pay a small sum to his creditors. His daughter was married and the family felt a bit of relief from their debt. And they celebrated.
But then the creditors came back some time later, demanding money again and threatening to take his daughters into slavery again. The father, convinced the first gift was a fluke of some kind, did not dare to think it would happen again. But Nicholas heard about this family’s dilemma and decided to go again by night to make another gift of gold coins. He went to the house, opened the same window, threw in the bag of coins, which again, split when it hit the ground so that the coins wound up in socks and shoes that were drying by the fire.
The next morning, the man found the coins again and thanked God again and found that it was enough to pay for the dowry of his second daughter and give his creditors a small sum. The family, once again, knew some relief and they celebrated. But on this occasion, the father took time to reflect on just how grateful he was for these gifts and made an oath to himself that he would find the person who had helped his family with such generosity.
Then, some time later, it happened a third time. The creditors came knocking on the family’s door, demanding money and threatening to take the youngest daughter into slavery. Of course, Nicholas heard about it and collected a bag of gold and made his journey to the family’s home. He opened the window, threw the bag of coins in, which burst open on the floor so that the coins landed in the socks and shoes near the fire… except for one, which hit the man on the head!
You see, this time, the man was waiting for this secret gift giver. Ever since the creditors came knocking on his door the third time, the man slept underneath the window by the fire so that when the gift came crashing into his fireplace, he would be able to find the person and thank them. When the coin hit him in the head, he awoke immediately and dashed outside.
He saw a man in a cloak running away from the house and ran after him. Eventually he caught up with Nicholas and when they were face to face the man, who knew Nicholas and knew him to be a kind person, threw himself on the ground and kissed his feet in thanksgiving for his generosity. After the man had offered his thanks, Nicholas asked him not to tell anyone of these gifts.
They spoke together that night for a quite a while about the generosity of God and how God’s spirit of Love moves us beyond fear to care for one another. And afterwards, Nicholas blessed the man and disappeared into the night. And the man went home, paid off his creditors and his youngest daughter was married. And the family celebrated. A blessing given by God’s Spirit of Love.
Eventually, Nicholas became a bishop, like his uncle. He moved to a nearby town called Myra and became Bishop Nicholas of Myra. And he wore a pointed hat that we call a miter, because that’s what all bishops wear and carried a curled staff that we call a bishop’s crook, because that’s what all bishops carry. And Nicholas became a saint, not because he was a bishop, but because he remained the secret gift giver.
In many parts of the world, people celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6. And the night before, On December 5, they put out their stockings and socks and shoes hoping St. Nicholas will come and offer them a blessing. So, whenever we find coins and gifts in our stockings and socks and shoes, we know that St. Nicholas has been there.
And we know that we have been blessed by God’s spirit of Love.