It is now less than a month before Christmas and I am sure that the children (at least!) are beginning to get excited. But what, I wonder, are they getting excited about? Probably all those presents which they are hoping for.
All this takes me back to the story of St Nicholas who was a fourth century bishop living in Myrna in Asia Minor (now modern day Turkey). He was a very rich man but was also kind and did a lot to help the poor, giving secret gifts to those who needed help.
One of the stories about St Nicholas goes like this:
There was a poor man who had three daughters. He was so poor, he did not have enough money for a dowry, so his daughters couldn't get married. One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and into the house, which meant that the oldest daughter was then able to get married. The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry! This was repeated later with the second daughter. Finally, determined to discover the person who had given him the money, the father secretly hid by the fire every evening until he caught Nicholas dropping another bag of gold. Nicholas begged the man to not tell anyone what he had done, because he did not want to bring attention to himself. But soon the news got out and when anyone received a secret gift, it was thought that maybe it was from Nicholas.
Many countries, especially in Europe, celebrate St. Nicholas' Day on 6th December. In Holland and some other European Countries, children leave clogs or shoes out on the 5th December (St. Nicholas Eve) in the hope that they will be filled with presents. They also believe that if they leave some hay and carrots in their shoes for St Nicholas’ horse, they will be left some sweets.
In 1822,Clement Clarke Moore (1779 - 1863) wrote the poem ‘Twas the night before Christmas, also called “A Visit from St. Nicholas" in which St Nicholas is mentioned in the first verse:
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
When I was at secondary school, the name of my school was St. Nicholas Grammar School and the badge contained a bishop’s mitre together with three money bags.
Christmas is a wonderful time for both children and adults and we all get excited about receiving (and giving) presents. But let us not forget the most important present of all that we receive at Christmas and that is the babe in the manger who was God in human form, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Hopefully many of you will feel moved to come to church this Christmas – details of all the services can be found under the Services tab.
With very best wishes at this season of the year!
Licensed Lay Minister and Churchwarden