Bishop Nicholas of Myra
Today, Thursday Dec. 6th, is the feast day for Bishop Nicholas of Myra, in present-day Turkey. He had a legendary habit of secret gift-giving and was said to have survived torture under Diocletian at the end of the third century. This figure might be better known to us today as St. Nick. Dutch tradition is credited for bringing a particular appreciation for “Sinterklaas” or “Santa Claus” to the United States. Mandarin oranges and chocolate coins were among the small gifts and toys traditionally left in the shoes of small children by this evening visitor. During the Reformation in Europe, this mysterious gift-giver began to make visits to some houses on Christmas Eve, instead of on December 6th, and began to also be known by the handle “Christkindl”… which is the source of a perhaps more familiar name in English: Kris Kringle.
One particularly poignant story from Bishop Nicholas’s earthly life has made its way into our collective cultural memory. In that time and place, it was still the dark ages and women needed dowries to get married. However, one poor father of three daughters was not able to afford any dowry. It seemed almost inevitable that his daughters would be sold into slavery. (Apparently single or cloistered lives were not viable options for women in that culture). Bishop Nicholas redeemed the daughters by dropping gold coins down the chimney of the house—and, as the story goes, those gold coins happened to fall into some stockings that had been hung in the fireplace to dry.
Whatever your December traditions look like, I hope and pray that its an advent of redemption made real, by and among you and yours, by the grace of God.
Your friend in Christ,