Santa’s making his way into Macy’s and Walmart and thousands of stores and countless television advertisements these days. I’d like to save him and get him back to what he does best.
He’s a saint, and saints aren’t in the world to sell stuff. They give things away. So instead of hearing Santa Claus say, “What do you want for Christmas? I’ll show you where to buy it.” We should hear him asking “What are you going to give others, what are you going to do for others, this Christmas?”
The best way to get Santa Claus back to what he does best is to know his story and tell it to others. I’m going to put up soon a little clip that may help little children get to know him.
Nicholas lived way back in the 4th century in the busy seaport of Myra along the Turkish coast. He’s honored today in the great church of St. Nicholas in the city of Bari along the Adriatic Coast in Italy. Let me tell you his story.
Nicholas likely belonged to one of Myra’s wealthy families who made a living on the sea. But he wasn’t spoiled growing up. His family taught him to be generous with others, because that makes you richer than anything else.
One day, Nicholas heard there a man in Myra who lost all his money when his business failed. He had three beautiful daughters who were going to get married, but there was no money for their marriage and no one wanted to marry them because they were so poor.
They didn’t even have enough to eat, and so the father in desperation decided to sell one his daughters into slavery, so that the rest could survive.
The night before she was to be sold, Nicholas came to the window of their house and tossed in a small bag of gold and then vanished in the night. The next morning, the father found the gold on the floor. He had no idea where it came from. He thought it was counterfeit, but it was real.
He fell to his knees and thanked God for this gift. Then he arranged for his first daughter’s wedding; there was enough left for them to live for almost a year. But he kept wondering: who gave them the gold?
Before the year ended, the family again had nothing and the father, again desperate, decided his second daughter had be sold. But Nicholas heard about it and came to the window at night and tossed in another bag of gold. Again, the father couldn’t believe it. Who gave this gift?
A year passed and their money ran out once more. One night the father heard steps outside his house and suddenly a bag of gold fell onto the floor. The man ran out and caught the stranger. It was Nicholas.
“Why did you give us the gold?” the father asked.
“Because you needed it,” Nicholas answered. “But why didn’t you let us know who you were?” the man asked. “Because it’s good to give and have only God know about it.”
When the bishop of Myra died, the people of the city along with the neighboring bishops came together in their cathedral to select a new bishop. They prayed and asked God to point out who would it be. In a dream, God said to one of them that the next morning someone would come through the cathedral door as they prayed. He’s the one.
It was Nicholas who came through the door, and they named him their bishop. This unassuming man, so good, was meant by God to lead them.
As bishop of Myra, Nicholas was always ready to help people. He helped anyone in need and then quietly he’d disappear, without waiting for thanks. He was a holy man, and word about him spread quickly. He always wanted families to have enough to eat and a good place to live, that children got ahead in life, and that old people lived out their lives with dignity and respect.
And he always loved the sailors on the sea. Without their ships, people wouldn’t have food and the things they need.
Nicholas is known today as Santa Claus. I like him better as St. Nicholas. He’s an example of a “quiet giver,” the kind of person who gives and wants only God to know about it. That’s giving of the purest kind.