St. Nicholas Was a Sinner and Saint!

St Nick 2012adapted from a previous post for 2009   

And I heard him murmur…

         “Yeah, I heard him preach that sermon before…”

No, that’s really not the case.  Not this one at least.  In over thirty years of parish ministry have I ever repeated a sermon from before?  Yes, only once… by request… that “pumpkin seed” sermon with all the different sized orbs of orange for the end of October and Reformation Sunday about the “size” of faith needed… but most only heard it once.  But, maybe I will again… if enough people ask… and while I don’t do sermonic do-overs, I don’t regurgi-blog either… but as this week comes to a close, Black Fridays have turned to gray, the Texans are getting a new coach, and the fact that I’ve got a huge case of the Advent/Christmas “blues”  ( a good thing for me to report by the way…) I share this adapted version of a previous exposition as St. Nicholas remains one of my favorite sinners and saints of the church… and may he now be an inspiration to you!

Are there lessons for life and faith we can learn from the image of our cultural Christmas? You bet… and if you look deeply enough, you will find the face of Jesus behind that long, white beard…

So read on and may the true message of Christmas find itself creeping up on you as these Advent days wind down! The 12 days of Christmas will mean all that more as you do…

  • Pray, giving thanks to God for life, family, church & the world in which we live and serve;
  • Reflect, taking count of blessings and opportunities to share what is first given to us;
  • Thank, using that time of reflection to make a list of those who have helped us along the way…in recent days and even in years gone by and then to actually…THANK them;
  • Build Up, not being content with the way things are, but observe where and why life is the way it is and then chart out a plan to add on and build up that which is good…

And here’s a bit of inspiration to carry you into the end of Advent and the 12 days of Christmas…

Most adults are aware of the decades long crossing of traditions of Pere Noel, Weinachtsman, Kris Kringle and Sinter Klaus in order to get to the jolly of elf we’ve come to call Santa… and some are even aware that much of the early traditions flow from the events recounted in the 9th century by church historians on the life and acts of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in the 4th century. In our day, he is now known as St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, a city in Turkey and today known as “Lycian.” In fact, St. Nicholas’s Church still stands in the ancient area of Myra dating back to the 9th C A.D. and built over the original church in the mid-500’s A.D. His story remains a household treasure there and so allow me to share 3 things that I think St. Nicholas can re-teach the church of this 21st C generation… he was indeed a saint and a sinner…

  1. GENEROSITY—-Nicholas’ parents died when he was young. His father was a merchant in Patera (nearer the coast) and with his parent’s inheritance he went to live with his uncle who was a priest and Nicholas began studying for the priesthood. And one of the vows of a priest is to take on a life of poverty. Nicholas’ actions here are memorable as he forged ahead.

      He heard of a man who had 3 daughters of marriageable age but had no dowry to offer         the father of a suitor. Over a period of time, Nicholas came by night on horseback                 tossing a bag of gold into the window of the man’s home. Soon all 3 daughters were               married and with the last bag of gold landing in a shoe on the kitchen floor, to this day           thousands of young people place their shoes in the kitchen of their parents home on               DEC 6 (St. Nicholas Day) and find their shoes filled with “surprises” in the morning.

2. SPEAKING OUT FOR THOSE WITH NO VOICE —- As Nicholas became a priest, it was by surprise that he became bishop! When the old bishop of Myra died, the area priests and bishops had a difficult time finding a suitable replacement. One of the bishops said to the others, I will go to the church tomorrow morning as it has been revealed to me in a dream, that the first priest to enter the church for prayer, named Nicholas, will be our new bishop. So, unbeknownst to Nicholas, he went to the church in the morning for prayers and when asked by the old bishop, “what is your name?” He replied, NICHOLAS and the priest took him by the arm and led him to the others and announced, “here is the new bishop of Myra, Nicholas.” And so he began his work.

At one time, two men were falsely accused of stealing money by the mayor of Myra but it was the mayor himself and two others who were in collusion for this illegal act. Word came to Bishop Nicholas that these two men were to be executed later in the day and as Nicholas went to see the mayor to confront him of this issue of justice, it just so happened that 2 generals and a large army were passing through Myra at the request of the Emperor. The generals did not know of the two men who were falsely accused and to be executed that day. But, when Nicholas showed up at the mayor’s office (with the 2 generals and the army behind them) the mayor spat out the truth and the two men were freed. Many say, “God is funny…” but others say, “God is at work when faithful people speak up in behalf of those with no voice…”

3. HOLY RAGE —-in A.D 325, Emperor Constantine called a Council of church leaders, bishops and pastors to sort out all of the information going around about Jesus and the Church…much of which was confusing to many besides the emperor. Nicholas, bishop of Myra is said to have attended that meeting. He along with others believed that Jesus and the Father were of one substance, one person and equal to each other.

Also at that meeting was a fellow Christian and priest, Arius. He was insistent that as Jesus was born of a young virgin, and thus being human, he could not be equal to God the Father. Pastors are familiar with this moment in history…”the homoousian controversy” but as Arius was making his case, Bishop Nicholas got up from his seat and for all practical purposes gave Arius a shot to the face that was noticeable enough to get him kicked out of the Council of Nicaea for the remainder of the meeting.

You see, Nicholas did two things that were wrong…A) he struck a brother in the faith and B) he struck that brother in front of the Emperor which was REALLY against the law of the day…and as a result, Nicholas was stripped of his bishop’s robes, and locked up under guard for the remainder of the meeting. However, when the Council finally formed it’s statement of faith, the one we know as the NICENE Creed, Bishop Nicholas’ passion ruled the day as Arius was tagged ‘heretical’ in his theology, Jesus and the Father ARE one and he was given his robes back to return to his work in Myra and became in essence the hero of the Council of Nicaea. HOLY RAGE…something we hear little of these days…

Luther knew holy rage when he nailed 95 statements to the Wittenberg Church door. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew holy rage when he marched on Birmingham and Washington, D.C. Nelson Mandela knew holy rage and did so by quietly living out his time in jail only later to become his nation’s president and an advocate of peace and cooperation amongst peoples. I think most of us can say, “we know it; but we don’t see it that often…”

Aren’t those good lessons and good attributes for our life today? To show generosity for Jesus’ sake; to speak out for those who have no voice and to lay claim to a holy rage that none of us would remain contented until every knees would bow and every tongue would confess that Jesus is Lord of their lives…

May you have a blessed 12 days of Christmas …

And, o yeah… if you want to join me in this time of the “blues”

click here…

I’m not selling Acura’s… just getting ready for Christmas and willing to preach THAT sermon and tell that story over and over!!!

Happy St. Nicholas Day!




About briangigee

Loves life; lives love! Bud and Doris' eldest son. Descendant of 'refiners' and 'reformers.' Husband to Margo. Father of 5. Grandfather to 4. Brother, uncle, friend and colleague. Working parish pastor. Became a naturalized Texan in February 2013.
This entry was posted in Because Someone Needs to Say Something! and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s