“St. Nick” is more than a child’s Christmas legend. He was flesh and blood, a prisoner for Christ, bishop of the Greek city of Myra, in modern Turkey.
The real St. Nicholas was born to wealthy parents in the seaside city of Patara, Turkey, about 270 A.D. He was still young when his mother and father died and left him a fortune.
As a teenager, Nicholas’ humility was already evident. He had heard about a family destitute and starving. The father had no money for food, much less the dowry needed to marry off his three daughters. He was ready to send his oldest girl into the streets to earn a living as a prostitute.
Under the cover of night, Nicholas threw a bag of gold coins through the window of their humble dwelling.
In the morning the father discovered the gold. He rejoiced that his family was saved, his daughter’s honor preserved, and a dowry for her marriage secured. Later, Nicholas secretly provided a dowry for the second daughter and later the third daughter.
On the third occasion, the girls’ father stood watching. When the bag of gold thudded on the floor, he chased after the lad until he caught him. Nicholas was mortified to be discovered in this act of charity. He made the father promise not to tell anyone who had helped his family. Then Nicholas gave up his wealth to answer a call to the ministry.
When the bishop of Myra died, the bishops and ministers from other cities and villages, including Nicholas, gathered to choose a successor. Nicholas was in the habit of rising very early and going to the church to pray. This morning an aged priest awaited him in the sanctuary.
“Who are you, my son?” he asked.
“Nicholas the sinner,” the young minister replied. “I am your servant.”
“Come with me,” the old priest directed.
Nicholas followed him to a room where the people had assembled. The elderly priest addressed the gathering.
“I had a vision that the first one to enter the church in the morning should be the new bishop of Myra. Here is that man: Nicholas.”
They did choose him as their bishop.
In A.D. 303, the Roman Emperor Diocletian ordered a brutal persecution of all Christians. The authorities ordered those suspected of following the Lord to sacrifice to pagan gods. Nicholas and thousands of others refused.
Ministers, bishops, and lay people were dragged to prison. They unleashed savage tortures on Christians all over the empire. They fed believers to wild animals. Some were forced to fight gladiators while bloodthirsty crowds screamed for their death. Women suffered dehumanizing torment. Saints were beaten senselessly. Others were set aflame while still alive.
After years of imprisonment, the iron doors swung open and Bishop Nicholas walked out, freed by decree of the new Emperor Constantine. As he entered his city again, his people flocked about him. “Nicholas! Confessor!” they shouted. “Saint Nicholas has come home.”
The bishop was beaten but not broken. He served Christ’s people in Myra for another 30 years. Through the ministry of this tried and tested soldier of faith, many found salvation and healing. Nicholas participated in the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. He died on December 6, about 343.
St. Nick of yuletide fame still carries faint reminders of this ancient man of God. The color of his outfit recollects the red of bishop’s robes. Gifts secretly brought on Christmas recall his humble generosity to the three daughters.
If he were alive today, this saint would humbly deflect attention from himself. As he did in life centuries ago, Bishop Nicholas would point people to his Master.
“I am Nicholas, a sinner and a servant of Christ Jesus.”
Posted on Fri, December 9, 2016
by Willie Todd