by Thomas G. Simons
St. Nicholas is the source for many of our present Christmas customs, especially that of gift giving. His feast is an appropriate time to express the spiritual aspects of giving and sharing and invites a celebration of blessing in his memory.
Postcard, 1912 Switzerland
St Nicholas Center Collection
Call To Worship
Leader: I will look after my sheep, says the Lord.
All: And I will raise up a shepherd to pasture them.
Leader: The Spirit of the Lord was upon him.
All: To bring good news to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted.
Leader: Let us pray.
All powerful God,
you made St. Nicholas a bishop and leader of the church
to inspire your people with his teaching and example.
May we give fitting honor to his memory
and always have the assistance of his prayers.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever—and ever.
1 Peter 5.1–4 — Hebrews 13.7–9a
The following summary of the life of St. Nicholas may be read and discussed.
St. Nicholas was born in Asia Minor. He was named bishop of Myra, a poor and run-down diocese. When his wealthy parents died, he gave his wealth to the poor and devoted himself to the conversion of sinners.
Once he heard that a man who had become very poor intended to abandon his three daughters to prostitution because he could not afford a dowry for them to be married. Nicholas, the story goes, on three occasions threw a bag of gold through the window into the room of the sleeping father. His daughters soon were married. Later the father came to Nicholas, fell at his feet and said, "Nicholas, you are my helper. You have delivered my soul and my daughters' souls from hell."
This story and his many other works of charity led to the tradition of giving presents on Nicholas' feast day and at Christmas in his name. The name Santa Claus, in fact, evolved from his name.
Nicholas died at Myra in 350. His popularity, already great, increased when his relics were brought to Bari, Italy, in 1087. Both the Eastern and Western churches honor him. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of Russia, Greece, Apulia, Sicily, and Lorraine. He is regarded as the special patron of children. His feast is December 6.
Reader: For the gift of each person here.
All: We give thanks.
Reader: For the capacity to care for and to share with those in need.
All: We give thanks.
Reader: For a holiday season of joy, hope, and peace.
All: We give thanks.Blessing Prayer
Leader: Gracious and good Lord, we bless you on this feast of St. Nicholas, your servant, who is an example to us of a life of charity and love. 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 around us. Through Jesus our Lord.
Share a special treat or exchange small gifts, if desired.
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From Blessings for God's People, by Thomas G. Simons, 1995, Ave Maria Press, pp. 43,44. Used by permission.
Fr. Thomas Simons is pastor at Holy Trinity Parish in Comstock Park, Michigan.