As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” . . . Then, Jesus said to him,
“You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.”
At that, the young man rejoiced greatly, sold his possessions,
distributed all he had to the poor, and followed Jesus.
Good Choice, Young Disciple
Several centuries after Christ encountered a rich young prospective disciple on a dusty Judean road, another rich young ruler chose a much happier ending to his similar story. As a result of his decision, Nicholas of Myra eventually became known as Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra.
Unlike his forebear who chose not to give up earthly well-being for a life with Christ, the only tragedy in the story of Saint Nicholas is that, in recent centuries, the corruption of his good name has become part of the grotesque commercialization of Christmas.
“Santa Claus” has contributed mightily to the abasement of celebrating the Savior’s birth. As you do your Christmas shopping this year, notice how often “fine retail establishments everywhere” display images of a white-bearded man in red instead of a baby in a manger. Santa has displaced Jesus as the center of the season because he’s better at encouraging people to buy stuff.
Other than his complete devotion to Jesus Christ, the real Saint Nicholas has nothing to do with Christmas, and taking note of December 6 can help battle the secularization around us and preserve the true meaning of our great celebration 19 days later.
Saint Nicholas did precisely what the rich young ruler of the gospels would not do. He gave up his considerable worldly possessions as a small price to pay for the rewards of following Jesus.
For centuries after Nicholas of Myra died on December 6, 343, Christians honored his contribution to the Church (many still do). Whether or not the gold pieces he humbly offered poor people in his community actually fell through an open window into stockings drying by the hearth, we may never know this side of heaven. But we do know he stands as an example of sacrifice to which we can all aspire.
As a result, of an “a-ha” moment a few years ago while wondering how to keep our celebrations correctly focused, our family dis-connected stockings stuffed with gifts on Christmas and have made them part of St. Nicholas Day as they belong.
American Christians live in a world increasingly at odds with biblical beliefs, so we should expect to do things more and more differently than many around us.
The need is now urgent to celebrate Christmas
and other “holy” days differently than the norm.
If we don’t cultivate lifestyles at variance with the culture, we risk making choices more like that of the rich young ruler in the first century, than the one in the fourth.
To learn more about the inspiring life of Saint Nicholas, you might want to read William Bennett’s book about The True Saint Nicholas:
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