St Nicholas Sermon for the Boy Bishop

by Vicar Derek Earis for the Boy Bishop, St Nicholas Parish Church, North Walsham, Norfolk, UK

Boy Bishop with attendants
Boy Bishop, St Nicholas Church, North Walsham
Used by permission

Patronal Festival
December 12, 2004

It's not often you get a Bishop here before you in Church for two weeks running. Admittedly last week it was the real Bishop and I'm the boy Bishop. But the whole point of this custom of ours is that in a way I'm just as important.

Churches dedicated to St Nicholas have long wanted to make the point that children and young people and those without much power are just as important as adults and those who have lots of power. That's why in medieval times a boy or young man from the choir was chosen to lord it over them for a day. The last shall be first and the first last. For a day everything is changed and we have to think about who and what is really important.

Today I want you to think about the main challenge St Nicholas has for us. The challenge is about changing things not just for a day but for always. Changing our lives and the lives of those around us. Now Nicholas was rather good at this. He changed the life of that poor family with three daughters who were destined to be sold into slavery because they did not have enough money to be married. He provided the three bags, one each night. He wanted to do it without anyone knowing and if he'd have succeeded we'd perhaps never have known the story at all. But the amazed father was waiting for him on the third night and wept with gratitude.

He changed the life of the families of the three boys captured by an evil butcher by rescuing them and restoring them to their loved ones.

He changed the life of the soldier wrongly accused who was to be put to death by making the authorities give him justice.

He changed the life of the sailors who were shipwrecked on the stormy sea by rescuing them.

But above all he changed the hearts and minds of people by not only teaching them about the love of Jesus but showing them it in his life. It shone out from him. When they were close to Nicholas they felt close to Christ. We as his followers are supposed to be like that. Whatever age we are it's this that makes the difference.

The challenge to us is to change our lives to make them more like that of St Nicholas. More generous. More loving. Another famous Christian who lived around the same time as St Nicholas was called St Basil. Last Sunday evening I was interested to hear what he wrote and though he must have been inspired by St Nicholas. Listen to some of his words again. "The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry person; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the person who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the person with no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help, but fail to help." pause

Now that would really change us wouldn't it? It would really make a difference to our world. And if that happened there would be no Saint who would rejoice more in heaven than our own St Nicholas.

God bless you all.

By the Revd Derek Earis, Vicar of St Nicholas Parish Church, North Walsham, Norfolk, UK. Used by permission.

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