While we know very little about the man who likely bore the name, the most likely person was the Bishop of Myra, near modern Finike, Turkey, in the 300s.
Nicholas' parents died when he was just a teenager. His parents left him a lot of money which made him a rich young man. He went to live with his uncle who was a priest.
Nicholas heard about a man who had lost all his money. He had three daughters who were old enough to get married. But in those days young women had to have money in order to get married. This money was a "dowry" and it was used to help the new family get started. If you didn't have dowry money, you didn't get married.
This family was so poor they had nothing left to eat. The daughters were going to be sold as slaves because they couldn't live at home any longer. They were very sad. They wouldn't be able to have families of their own. And they would have to be slaves—no longer able to decide where they would live or what they would do.
The night before the oldest daughter was to be sold, she washed her stockings and put them in front of the fire to dry. Then all of them went to sleep—the father and the three daughters.
In the morning the daughter saw a lump in her stocking. Reaching in, she found a small, heavy bag. It had gold inside! Enough to provide food for the family and money for her dowry. Oh, how happy they were!
The next morning, another bag with gold was found. Imagine! Two of the daughters would now be saved. Such joy!
And the next night, the father planned to stay awake to find out who was helping his daughters. He dozed off, but heard a small "clink" as another bag landed in the room. Quickly he jumped up and ran out the door. Who did he catch ducking around the corner?
Nicholas, the young man who lived with his uncle. "Nicholas, it is you! Thank you for helping us—I hardly know what to say!" Nicholas said, "Please, do not thank me—thank God that your prayers have been answered. Do not tell others about me."
In 565, Emperor Justinian dedicated a church in Constantinople to Saint Nicholas.
In 900s a Greek wrote, “The West as well as the East acclaims and glorifies him. Wherever there are people, his name is revered and churches are built in his honor. All Christians reverence his memory and call upon his protection.”
Somewhere along the line, probably tied to the gold-giving story, people began giving presents in his name on his feast day. When the Reformation came along, his following disappeared in all the Protestant countries except Holland, where his legend continued as Sinterklass. Martin Luther, for example, replaced this bearer of gifts with the Christ Child, or, in German, Christkindl. Over the years, that became repronounced Kriss Kringle, and ironically is now considered another name for Santa Claus.
So when we look historically we find that there was indeed a person named Saint Nick; though, it is likely that the stories have some fabrication to them. BUT all the stories agree about certain things:
• He was a GENEROUS man.
• He was a GIVING man.
• He was a LOVING man.
• He felt COMPASSION toward people.
• He offered HOPE!
• He was a man of GREAT FAITH!
• He always pointed people to GOD!
All great things.
Interstingly enough, all things that WE should ALL strive to be.
Anyone who does, becomes an IMITATOR of Christ:
Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, 2 and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.
The List – Santa has this list – Naughty and nice – and people use that to keep their children on the right path – “you better not make the naughty list, or Santa won’t bring you any gifts”. Or stranger – he may bring you some COAL.
That’s the thing about the LIST of Santa – It is based on WHAT YOU DO – your actions – good = reward / bad = nothing – but in the end your behavior is the rubric.
Jesus has a list as well – it’s a book!
And let me tell you, this is the list you want to be on. This is the list that is so great that the gift it gives is more wonderful than you can know!
See the special thing about this book is that your behavior - naughty or nice – is not the rubric. To get your name written on this book – you simply Ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior and WELCOME Him into your life.
It’s that easy – after that your life changes – you may struggle, you may fall – you may mess up and deserve to be on that Naughty list – but guess what –
Romans 3:23we are all sinners who have fallen short of the Glory of God!
But believe me - you want your name in Jesus’ book.
15 And anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
Because not having your name in His book – you are not getting coal – you get destruction.
Brothers and Sisters, that is a dark verse to use during the Christmas season – I know – but I want to make sure that you know that there is a consequence. There is a consequence to not having your name in the book.
I leave this sermon with a plea – PLEASE Do NOT leave here today without YOU PERSONALLY Asking Jesus into your life and asking for FORGIVENESS of Sins!