On the first Sunday in December, Antioch Lutheran Church, Farmington Hills, Michigan, has the annual Hanging of the Greens. After worship a light lunch is served, then adults decorate the church and children have a craft activity. Everyone then gathers in the chapel for A Blessing From St. Nicholas. At the beginning of the service St. Nicholas comes in with a great deal of "Ho ho ho-ing" and sits on a large chair in the front. Children wave and greet the visitor who has come from afar.
Austrian postcard, 1910
St. Nicholas Center Collection
Hymn: Your Little Ones, Dear Lord, Are We
Leader: I will look after my sheep, says the Lord.
All: And I will raise up a shepherd to pasture them.
Leader: Let us pray. Almighty God, you made St. Nicholas a bishop and leader of the Church to inspire your people with his teaching and example. May we see in his life an invitation to imitate his good deeds. Make us always mindful of the needs of others and help us rejoice in the abundance of your goodness. We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
WordReading Mark 10:13-16
The Word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.
St. Nicholas was born more than 1600 years ago in the country we now call Turkey. He loved God and loved the church, and became a pastor and then a bishop in the small town of Myra, which had a lot of poor people living in it. Nicholas wanted to show how much Jesus loves us by helping the poor people in his town.
There is a story told about Nicholas that once he heard there was a very poor man living in his town who had three daughters. The daughters wanted to get married but couldn’t, because they were so poor. Nicholas wanted to help and brought them three bags of gold.
So that no one could see who gave the gift, one dark winter night Nicholas tossed the bags through the window, where the girls found them the next morning. (Some people say Nicholas dropped the bags of gold down the chimney, and they landed in the girls’ stockings which had been hung up to dry at the fireplace!) We don’t know exactly how they got the money, but we do know that because of the gifts Nicholas gave them, they were able to get married and, as far as we know, they lived happily ever after.
This story and all the other good things that he did led other people to want to give presents on St. Nicholas’ Day, which is December 6th. On Christmas, too, some people give gifts in his name, remembering the good bishop and his love for all people. We remember Nicholas especially for his love of children, and our tradition of Santa Claus grew out of his story.
Blessing of the Children
Leader: O Lord, our Lord,
All: How exalted is your name in all the world!
Leader: Out of the mouths of infants and children
All: Your majesty is praised above the heavens.
Leader: We prepare to welcome the Lord who once came as a child.
Let us bless the Lord and ask God’s blessing on these children
and on all in the family of faith.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.
In Holy Baptism you have claimed us as your daughters and sons.
We thank you for giving us the joy and care of children.
Help them to grow up to know you, to love you and to serve you.
We thank you for the blessing of mothers and fathers in the faith
who have helped us to know your strong protection and tender love.
Today we give thanks also for your servant Nicholas,
who was faithful in the care and nurture of your family.
As Jesus took children in his arms and blessed them,
so now embrace these children with your blessing.
Bring us all at last to the new heaven and new earth
in which we will rejoice forever;
through Jesus Christ, your Child, our Lord.
The children are now invited to receive a blessing from St. Nicholas.
One by one, or smaller children holding the hand of an older child, the children come up and stand in front of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas talks with each child, asking what school grade they are in and if they are good and help their parents. He then places his hands on the child's head or shoulder, giving a blessing like this, "May the Lord Jesus bless you today and always." Following the blessing St. Nicholas gives each child one chocolate coin and an apple.
Hymn: Away in a Manger
Leader: Lord, remember us in your kingdom, and teach us to pray:
All: Our Father in heaven . . . .
Leader: Let us bless the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.
Leader: May we continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
From Antioch Lutheran Church, Farmington Hills, Michigan. Used by permission.