We continue our journey to the big day, Christmas Day!! This week we celebrate the feast day of St. Nicholas. Many set out their shoes in hopes of getting a small treat or two to help them in their long wait for the main event. Candy canes, books, decorative pencils, Christmas sox have all graced the shoes of shoes in our family. What do you do to celebrate the day?
There are many special stories of St. Nicholas that remind me of the importance of giving to others at this time of year. One of the most famous examples of Nicholas’ good deeds was how he secretly helped a man and his three daughters. There was a man in town, who had fallen on hard times, and had lost his wife. He raised his three daughters on his own.
When the oldest daughter wanted to get married, the man had no money to give as a dowry. He thought if he sold her into slavery, he could use the money as dowries for the other daughters when they wanted to get married. Nicholas found out about the poor man’s situation, and the night before she was about to be sold, he took some of his own money that was left to him by his parents, wrapped it into a ball in his handkerchief, snuck out to the man’s house in the dark of night when no one could see him, and threw the money into the window.
The next morning the man woke up, found the money, and was about to use it for his daughter’s dowry and wedding. She was not sold into slavery. The man was so happy for the gift, that he asked everyone in the town who had done this wondrous deed, so he could thank that person. No one knew who had done it, so the man didn’t know who to thank.
Time went by, and the man’s second daughter wanted to get married. He was still down on his luck. He has no money. Again he thought if he sold his second daughter into slavery, he would have money for his third daughter’s dowry. Nicholas heard of the poor man’s situation. The night before she was about to be sold into slavery, he again took some of his own money, put it into his handkerchief, tied it into a ball, sneaked out to the man’s house in the dead of night, and threw the money into the window, making sure he was not seen by anyone.
The next morning, the man woke up, found the money, and was again able to save his second daughter from slavery and pay for her wedding and dowry. Once again he asked around town, and no one would take credit for helping the man with his financial difficulties. Unfortunately, the man continued to suffer hard times, and when it came time for the third daughter to marry, he again had no money. He thought if he sold this daughter into slavery, at least she would be taken care of. The night before she was about to be sold, Nicholas again came with his handkerchief full of money. Carefully he crept up to the house. Just before he threw the money into the window, the man jumped out of the shadows, grabbed his arm, and said “Bishop Nicholas, is it you who has saved my children from slavery?” Bishop Nicholas admitted that it was he who had thrown the money into the window. The man was so grateful; he wanted the world to know of Nicholas’ wondrous deeds. However, Nicholas said that if he really wanted to make him happy, keep this as their little secret, and instead do good deeds for others, expecting nothing in return. Nicholas said that this would make both him and Jesus very happy. He told the man that if he did this, he would be rewarded tenfold.
However, when the time is right, I will allow you to tell people what I have done for you. This is how Nicholas came to be known as the giver of gifts, and the protector of children--someone who leaves gifts in the middle of the night, unseen by children, expecting nothing in return. That is how his legend began.
How can we give anonymously this season expecting nothing in return? Have you seen the red kettles of the Salvation Army outside of you favorite store? Give generously to this wonderful organization, and you will be rewarded ten fold. Enjoy this short segment of a classic holiday movie that shows the sentiment of the season.