Saint Nicholas: Bishop of Myra
Friend of Children—and All in Need
For older children
This story is for use with open, discovery-based approaches to children's Christian formation, such as Godly Play, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, or Children and Worship. Choosing Byzantine cards makes the story appropriate for Orthodox and Eastern Rite settings.
The story introduces Saint Nicholas and gives opportunity to discover connections between this Christian saint and Santa Claus.
Saint Nicholas' concern for justice, the oppressed, downtrodden and needy goes beyond sentimental gift-giving. This fuller understanding reveals him as a true model for faithful living.
If appropriate for your group more difficult vocabulary and detail may be added: Asia Minor, Lycia, inheritance, plague, dowry, famine, patron saint, Ecumenical Council, etc. To simplify the story, omit some segments, e.g., the Nicene Creed, famine, or the innocent men. Wondering questions may be modified as appropriate for your group. A simpler version for very young children is here.
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A long time ago, in a country far away, lived a man who loved God very much. He loved God with all his heart and his neighbors as himself.
His name was Nicholas. When he was a boy parents told him about Jesus. Nicholas wanted to live the way Jesus taught.
When Nicholas was a teenager a terrible sickness came to his town. Many people died including his parents. Nicholas went to live with his uncle who was a bishop in the church. His uncle taught him more about God.
Nicholas' parents were rich and after they died, Nicholas was rich, too. Nicholas decided to do what Jesus said, to "sell all you have and give to the poor."
There was a man who had three daughters. The man lost his job and he had no money to buy food or to care for his daughters. The daughters were old enough to get married, but they had no dowry—money and other kinds of goods to give to a future husband. To save them all from starving, the father decided to sell his daughters to be slaves.
Place gold coins card on underlay
|Nicholas heard about the man and his daughters. One night Nicholas crept up to the man's house and tossed a bag of gold coins through the window. Two more times Nicholas secretly tossed bags of coins into the man's house. The last time the father discovered who it was. When the father thanked him, Nicholas said, "Give thanks to God, not to me." Because of Nicholas' generous gifts the daughters didn't have to become slaves. All three daughters married good men.|
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|Early one morning Nicholas came to church. Many bishops were there to choose a new bishop. The oldest bishop had dreamed that the first person to come that morning would be named "Nicholas" and he should be the new bishop. At first Nicholas said that he was too young, but the bishops said it was what God wanted. So Nicholas was ordained a bishop in the city of Myra.|
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Bishops love and care for people, just like a shepherd cares for sheep. That's why bishops carry a crozier that is shaped like a shepherd's staff. When Nicholas became bishop he carried a crozier.
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|Once it didn't rain for a long time and the ground was so dry crops couldn't grow. There was almost no food and people were hungry. They thought they might starve and die. A ship loaded with wheat came to the city. Bishop Nicholas wanted to buy wheat so everyone would have something to eat. The ship's captain said he would get in trouble if any of the wheat was sold. Nicholas told the captain it would be all right and not to worry. The wheat fed everyone for two years. And enough was left to plant and bring an end to the famine. Nicholas had saved the people!|
Hold sword up, place card on underlay
|Another time three innocent men were going to be killed for something they hadn't done. When Bishop Nicholas heard about this, he ran to the place where the men were kneeling in front of the executioner. Nicholas grabbed the sword and stopped it and saved the men's lives. Nicholas sent the three men safely on their way.|
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|Much later people had different ideas about who Jesus really was. The Emperor asked all the bishops to come to Nicaea to figure it out. While they were talking about the problem, Bishop Nicholas got so angry he lost his temper and slapped one of the men who disagreed! Nicholas was put in jail and told he couldn't be a bishop anymore. Nicholas was very sorry for losing his temper and he asked God to forgive him. He was forgiven and made a bishop again.|
|Place creed card on underlay ||The bishops wrote down what was true about Jesus. What they wrote is called the Nicene Creed. For centuries church people have used these words to say what they believe about Jesus. We [sometimes] say these words in church, too or In some churches people still say these words.**|
Nicholas loved everyone and many stories tell how he helped people—especially those who were small or in danger. Bishop Nicholas was so loved by everyone that after he died he was called 'Saint Nicholas.'
Place St. Nicholas card on underlay
God's love shone through Nicholas and shows us how to follow Jesus and love and care for others. Saint Nicholas is a friend to everyone—
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touch sword, gold coins
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All around the world girls and boys hang up stockings or put out shoes before St. Nicholas' Day, which is December 6th. When they get up the next morning, the children run to look in their stockings or shoes, hoping to find little treats and surprises from St. Nicholas.
|Sitting back, looking at items on underlay—|
I wonder why Nicholas sold everything he had to help the poor . . . ?
I wonder why Nicholas gave his gifts in secret . . . ?
I wonder who Nicholas would help now . . . ?
I wonder how we could be like Nicholas . . . how we could care for others like Nicholas did . . . ?
I wonder how Nicholas felt when he lost his temper . . . and after he was forgiven . . . ?
I wonder if children love Saint Nicholas . . . ?
I wonder if Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus are the same . . . ?
Object Boxwith three gold balls on the side:
Purple felt underlay, 12-inch square
Object cards, print on cardstock from St. Nicholas Memory Game, laminate both sides for durability
Nicene Creed on parchment paper (PDF file to print card, laminate as above
Second Shelf Suggestions
Books and stories about St Nicholas
Life of Saint Nicholas by Verena Smith, illustrated by Emile Probst, Barns & Oates, 1966
St. Nicholas Promise Card (from The Saints: 21 Models for Good Living by Francine O'Connor, Pflaum, 2000
Map showing where Nicholas lived and traveled
Orange sections or Clementines (talk about oranges & gold balls as symbols for the gold Nicholas gave)
St. Nicholas cookies
Gold wrapped chocolate coins
St. Nicholas breads
Please send us your comments and suggestions.
**Use a sentence that accurately describes how your church uses the Nicene Creed.
By Carol Myers, St. Nicholas Center. Copyright © 2005, 2010.