What a great modern day Santa. Do you know the story of the original Santa? No, I'm not talking about the jolly guy from the North Pole who flies around in a magic sled pulled by mystical reindeer. I'm talking about the man behind the legend, Saint Nicholas. Have you heard his story?
One of the most amazing acts of generosity from Saint Nicholas, was done for three sisters. In those days, a young woman's parents were required to pay a dowry to the man she would marry. The dowry was a pretty hefty price and often included goods, money, and land. It's complicated, but a big reason for this was to help the young man begin his new household well and be able to take care of his new wife. Sadly, women whose parents could not pay a dowry were often never married because a lot of men simply could not afford to start a family without the aid of a dowry. Women who had no dowry, had parents who were old and unable to work, and who had no other family to take care of them often went unmarried and fell into poverty with no one to protect them.
Three sisters were in that situation. Their parents were too poor to pay a dowry and they were getting too old to provide for the family. The sisters could find no work to help support their family. They were facing a life of prostitution in order to just get by and not starve to death. That's when Nicholas found out about them. With his wealth, he paid for each of the young girl's to have a substantial dowry. They were able to marry, have children, and were saved from a life of prostitution. Nicholas was so moved by his faith in Jesus that he used what he had generously for others. He eventually became a pastor and bishop of the early church.
Saint Nicholas died on December 6th, 343. In honor of this great man, Christians began giving gifts to one another every year on December 6th. After many years, this tradition simply merged with the Christmas holiday because the two days were within weeks of each other. Saint Nicholas' story spread to many countries where various languages called him different things. In Holland, for example, he was known as Sinterklass which comes from the word Saint and the last portion of the name Nicholas. From similar translations, we arrive today at the legend of Santa Claus.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. -- 1 Timothy 6:17-19
If you live in America and are reading this blog entry on your smart phone, laptop, or home computer, then you truly are blessed and truly are rich. Let me encourage you this Christmas season to allow the stories of the original and modern day Santas and, even better, the story of Jesus, to inspire you to give generously to those in need around you. Take some time to selflessly and lovingly give to spread the love of Christ over the coming weeks. If you aren't sure how, Operation Christmas Childand Angel Tree are two wonderful ministries that you should take a look at. If you can, lead up one of those projects at your local church to help give generously as God has given to you and I.
- Spend some time giving thanks to God for all of the ways He has been generous to you
- Find a way to be generous to those in need this Christmas season (click the links above for two great ways). Be sure to remind people of the most generous gift ever given, God's only Son to save us from our sins.
- Share the real story of Saint Nicholas with someone