The roots of “Santa Claus” are not found in the snows of the North Pole but in the region now known as Turkey. Ancient Christian writings indicate that the real person was a wisp of a man little more than five feet tall. As a cardinal in the early church, Nicholas of Myra would have been seen in flowing red robes, and early Christian art reveals a white beard and balding head. Yet what made this church pioneer a model for the Christmas icon of goodwill was not his physical appearance but rather Nicholas’s giving spirit, great compassion, and unending generosity that inspired a holiday legend now known by billions around the globe.
Nicholas’s exposure to local culture was tempered by his parents—committed Christians who showed their faith not just through their words but also through action. They gave to missionary work and helped feed the poor. They also took Nicholas to church services and enrolled him in theology and history classes. Young Christians were taught The Didache, an early guide to righteous living that asked believers to fully embrace the two greatest commandments: to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37-40). These lessons had a great impact on Nicholas. As a teen, he shared part of his allowance with poor children who didn’t have enough to eat. Yet the act which really set him apart began with a family friend’s business failure.
A Legend Is Born
The man and his three daughters lost everything and were forced to move to a slum outside the city. In an act of desperation, the penniless father began to negotiate with local brothel owners. He was seeking to sell his oldest daughter into slavery to provide for the two younger children.
When Nicholas became aware of the situation, he felt a call to action. The night before the girl was to be sold, Nicholas went to the family’s home, waited for the lights to go out, and tossed a bag of gold through an open window. He vanished before the father could open the door to see who had provided such a great gift.
Nicholas must have either asked his parents if there was a way they could help, or gone “on mission” at their request. Yet, no matter who suggested the action or provided the funds, this act of kindness was an example of the family’s devotion to Christ’s teachings. And it wouldn’t be just a one-time act of charity.
The money lasted the family more than a year. When it ran out and the father again contemplated selling one of his daughters, another bag of gold was secretly delivered at night. A year later Nicholas returned again, but this time was caught. The father was overcome with emotion when he saw that the person who had provided the lifeline was a boy.
But nevertheless let us not forget that all glory belongs to God. This does not change the fact that Jesus is the reason for the season!!!
And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord:
it shall rejoice in his salvation.
in God’s Service