Mark 10:13-16 – They brought children for Him to lay His hands on them with prayer. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." And He laid His hands on the children, and went His way. (NEB)
Several weeks ago our pastor asked me to play a very special role. I was to be Saint Nicholas and to be introduced to the children during the children's time in the morning service. It is sad that most people know him only as the jolly elf who drops down the chimney on Christmas Eve. To Christians, he is one of their most-beloved saints.
Fortunately, this is not the first time I have had this privilege. Some years ago, I did the same performance on 100 Huntley Street, one of our Canadian daily Christian television shows. Part of the joy of this little portrayal was the research into the man himself.
Saint Nicholas began his Christian ministry as a monk, then as an abbot, and, finally, as the Bishop of Myra, a town in what is now Turkey. Stories abound of his good works, many of them no doubt somewhat exaggerated. Most, however, show his love of children and the poor. Many know the stories of the three golden balls thrown mysteriously into the yard of three chaste young women who could not have married without such a dowry, and of the three boys rescued from the heartless butcher who was about to kill them and sell their flesh. But Nicholas was much more than a kindly old gentleman. He fought valiantly for the orthodox faith at the Council of Nicea when it was challenged by heretics, and suffered under the persecution of the church by Diocletian. No wonder he is perhaps the best-loved of all saints, more often painted by artists than any but Jesus' mother, Mary!
We remember him on December 6th, because that is the day he entered into the glory of his Lord. More importantly, we remember him because of his example of compassion and charitable goodness.
Prayer: Not just at Christmas, Lord, but throughout the whole of our lives, help us to be kind, not only to children, but also to all who need our understanding. Teach us to walk as Thy saints of old, valiant for truth, faithful under persecution, and constant in love. Amen.