As we approach the Feast of St. Nicholas, I thought I'd reprise what has proven to be one of the most popular entries in this blog.
St. Nicholas, before he donned his red coat and moved to the North Pole, was the third century bishop of the city of Myra in modern Turkey.
Many miracles were attributed to Nicholas. But the most evocative story attributed to him, and the one that would come to lend the most to our vision of him, wasn’t magical at all. He reportedly helped a poor man who had three daughters and who could not afford a dowry for them. Without a dowry, in the culture of the day, the daughters would have been condemned to a life of prostitution. Under cover of darkness, Nicolas threw a small bag of gold coins into the open window of the home of the poor man to pay the dowry of each daughter as they came of age. As the last daughter came of age, the poor man tried to discover Nicolas’s identity by waiting for him by the window. So, Nicholas instead threw the bag down the chimney into a stocking the daughter had hung by the chimney with care - to dry after washing.
In another variation of the story, the poor man successfully confronts Nicholas and thanks him. But Nicholas urges him to thank only God.
So, Christmas really is about gifts! But it is not gifts that we give - it is the abundant gifts God gives us. When Jesus multiplies a few loaves of bread and feeds thousands, he does not expect us to be able to repeat the miracle. The story demonstrates that God’s love is abundant. While in the human economy everything of value is scarce, must be rationed and reserved for the worthiest, God’s economy is different. God’s love is abundant enough to go around with plenty left over. We don’t need to decide who is good enough – and God won’t either - He’ll just quietly throw His love to us under cover of darkness.