from St. Andrew Evangelical Lutheran Church, Parsippany, New Jersey
After "Santa" changed into St. Nicholas, this interview was used as the children's sermon
Interviewer Saint Nicholas
So, Bishop Nicholas, we just showed the children that you didn't always wear fur and an elf hat . . .
1. Tell us a little about where you came from.
I was born [around] the year of 280 in what is now Turkey.
You know, about 200 years before I was born, the Apostle Paul came to my home town during his travels—you may have read about this like I did in the books of Acts in the Bible.
2. What were your parents like?
My parents were wealthy Christians. This allowed me to receive a good education, including religious training, even when I was really young, such as following the church rules about fasting on every Wednesday and Friday.
How I got to be known as a chubby guy still puzzles me . . . there is no way I was getting fat by not eating two days a week. Back to my parents . . . both of them died when I was only 16, so my uncle who was an abbot at a monastery helped me grow up.
3. Growing up without parents must have been hard?
I was sad, but as an only child I did inherit all the family wealth.
I won't lie to you—having money helped at first. . . .
But all that money is a lot of responsibility . . . I found guidance in the Scriptures about to do with it.
4. I think I know the story you are talking about . . . Jesus tells the rich man, "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven."
But Jesus goes one step further and says, "Then come, follow me."
And that's just what I did . . . I started giving away my family's wealth to those in need.
And I started down the road to becoming a priest.
5. Did always stay in the same city where you were born?
No, at one point I moved to the town of Myra.
When their Bishop died, all the other bishops gathered to select his replacement, but they could not reach a decision. The senior bishop had a vision that the first person to enter the church the next morning would be God's choice for the job.
6. Let me guess . . . You were the one who walked in.
You got it . . . . Early in the morning, as usual, I went into the church to pray . . . and the next thing you know . . . . I was made the Bishop of Myra.
You like my hat? It came with the job.
7. Wow . . . Bishop . . . must have been a cushy job . . . ?
You might think so, but during this time the emperor of Rome wasn't so keen on us Christians. He was persecuting us, you know, "throw them to the lions" and all that stuff you see in the movies.
8. How did the church survive with all that killing?
Luckily the next emperor, Constantine, was different. And he made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.
9. Sounds like you finally reached easy street.
Sure, we were better off, but there were lots of different ideas floating around as to what it meant to be a Christian. Constantine ordered all the Bishops to meet the city of Nicea in the year 325 to come to some agreements.
The most important question we had to decide on was . . . Is Jesus just a man or was Jesus the same as God?
In the end most of the bishops were in agreement that the Father and the Son are both part of God.
10. When we read the Nicene Creed during the church service we will have to remember that Saint Nicholas was part of getting [it figured out].
I do hope you remember that . . . but that's enough of boring history.
11. Sorry, I'm a history geek.
That's ok, history is important—but the legends about me are much more fun.
So many stories have been told about me over the past 1700 years that I can't remember which are true and which are just legends.
12. Why don't you share some of the most popular ones with us?
Remember my parents died leaving me with lots of money?
13. Yes, you did what Jesus told the rich man to do and gave your money to the poor.
Jesus also said some thing else. He said to give to the poor in secret.
One of my most famous acts of charity was to give money for the dowries of the daughters of a man who had lost all of his wealth.
If that father didn't have the money, his daughters would have to be sold into slavery or worse.
One night, I secretly threw three bags of gold through the window of the three sleeping sisters.
The next morning the father was heard shouting in the streets of Myra, "A miracle! It's a miracle!"
If you look at many of the many paintings of me, you will see me with three bags or balls of gold.
When this story got out I became the patron saint of brides and women wanting to get married.
14. You know I have seen those three gold balls somewhere else . . . aren't you also the patron saint of pawn brokers?It's weird but, yes . . . The father in the story had lost all his money. He probably would have had to go to a pawn broker to get a loan. Today pawn brokers still put those gold balls on their signs.
15. Aren't you the patron saint for other kinds of people as well?
There is a story about a cruel innkeeper who killed three boys and placed their bodies in a pickling barrel.
Some say that he intended to feed them to customers in his inn.
I prayed over the bodies and the boys were raised back to life
So now I am also the patron saint of children and barrel makers.
16. Isn't there some connection with you and sailors?
That story is popular in Greece. One time a ship was caught in a storm, and the sailors prayed to God to save them. Suddenly a strange man appeared at the helm and guided the ship safely into port in my town of Myra. The sailors who went to the church to give thanks for saving them said that they saw me at the church and were convinced that it was me who had appeared on their ship.
Now Greek sailors pray to Saint Nicholas for safe voyages.
17. I know there are so many more old stories we could go on and on but let's talk about how we celebrate you today.
Well, my years on this earth came to an end, on the 6th of December in AD 343 . . . but that is where the celebrating begins.
The people of Myra continued to honor me with festivals on the 6th of December.
During these festivals children would receive gifts of money and special foods.
Likewise food and clothing would be given to the needy.
18. I can see that spirit of Santa Clause carries on these traditions today.
Yes, but enough with the stories about me.
Here is what is really important…
There is no St. Nicholas without our Lord Jesus, the greatest gift that God has given to the world.
So, let all the stories about Santa, Father Christmas, or Saint Nicholas begin and end in Bethlehem and the birth of a child in a humble stable.
St. Nicholas at St. Andrew Evangelical Lutheran Church
From St. Andrew Evengelical Lutheran Church, Parsippany, New Jersey. Used by permission.