Earlier this week a former minister of our Methodist partners, Eric Potts, sent a card that featured one of the stained glass panels in the church he now attends, the church of St Nicholas in Radford Semele. Timely as always – only this afternoon our Wednesday Fellowship focussed on St Nicholas, whose feast day it is. The church is medieval, but was gutted by fire in 2008 and restored five years later, so the design is new. The panel shows St Nicholas in his Orthodox Bishop’s stole, and displays the text “how much more will your Father give” (Luke 11:13). The three boys are the ones he is said to have rescued from a brine tub and the water represents his wide travels and the fact that he is the patron saint of the sea and sailors.
One of the best-known stories, represented by three gold coins, is that of the gift of bags of gold thrown through a poor man’s window as the dowry for three poor girls, who might otherwise have been forced into prostitution. This morning we were reminded by the Rev Lucy Winkett in her BBC Radio 4 “Thought for the Day” (available at this link) that similar needs still exist, and are not confined to the fourth century.
His generosity is what has morphed the real St Nicholas into our Santa Claus. But Nicholas gave in secret, was alert to others’ needs, and expected nothing for himself in return. As part of your preparation for Christmas, we encourage you to reflect on how our image of Santa, and our celebration of Christmas, compares with how St Nicolas acted? Read the imaginary dialogue between Santa Claus and St Nicholas at this link.
And then pray the St Nicholas Prayer: Loving God, we thank you for the example of St Nicholas, who fed the hungry, brought hope to the imprisoned, gave comfort to the lost, and taught the truth to all. May we strive to imitate him, by putting you first in all we do. Give us the courage, love, and strength of St Nicholas, so that, like him, we may serve you, through loving our brothers and sisters. Amen.