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A homily in honour of St Nicholas of Myra ( the real father Christmas?)

Whether St Nicholas of Myra is actually remembered in the Church Lectionary remains  a bit of a puzzle to me as he isnt listed in the  lectionary  Ive got. If you want to read more about that question- there’s a very good web-site which discusses that issue:

http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=234

However, December 6th is traditionally the day when the old saint is remembered and Im very grateful to Nick G  for his thoughts on St Nicholas. I have adpated it a bit for my own use – but Nick’s thoughts are at the heart of the text.

Sermon for St Nicholas ( based on words by Nick Gellatly – December 6th 2009)

The Real Santa.

We know Christmas is just around the corner when Delia Smith appears on TV. And there she was this week with her fantastic array of seasonal recipes – making everything look so easy when it comes to preparing Christmas food. Me and cooking have never really seen eye to eye and I’m very pleased that when it comes to Christmas Day, I stay out of the kitchen and let those who are more able than me – and more willing get on with the job!

Now I don’t know whether you’ve made your Chrsitmas pudding crackers or decided what kind of turkey( or vegetarian option| you’re going to have )– or even started your Christmas shopping  but there is no doubt Christmas is on at full steam out in the shops and streets around us. Santa was out in St Neots last Saturday – I had a little chat with him outside the museum and although I don’t have any, he asked if I would like to bring my grandchildren in to see him.  I wonder – if we spent a couple of hours in town and asked people who is heart at the heart of Christmas – what the response would be? I  hope Jesus might come up as the answer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Santa was up there in the popularity charts.

This service on the 2nd Sunday of Advent  is an opportunity today to stop for a moment, draw breath and reflect in a joyful way on one of the greatest of all Saints. A man who was so great that it is hard to believe he was real. In fact some people say he doesn’t exist. I am talking none other than Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra – you might know him better as Santa Claus or Father Christmas.

I know why some people don’t believe in Saint Nicholas – it’s because he is too good to be true. If you Google his name you’ll find 1,640,000 pages about him on the internet and there are more than 500 Church of England churches named after him. He’s the patron Saint of many churches in Scotland and a very popular saint in the Orthodox Church .So what is it about Saint Nicholas that makes him our favourite Saint?

The story goes that he provided the dowry money for three women in distress whose father could not raise the money. They’d have had a horrible life if they couldn’t marry well so good old Nicholas drops in gold coins to save them.

Another of the stories is the incredible restoring to life three boys who were being pickled during a time of great famine to be sold for food. Nicholas wanders through the woods and comes by the butchers inn and restores the boys to health.

Maybe it’s because Nicholas symbolises that which is at the heart of our Christian faith which is the ability to give, to give, and to give again. To love, to love, and to love again. And to care, to care, and to care again.

Nicholas did just what Jesus would do. And he is one of the primary examples of what it means to be a follower of Christ. As we look at the lives of the Saints, Nicholas holds up for us an example how God can use us when we least expect it. Nicholas being chosen as a Bishop came as complete surprise to him as he entered the Cathedral of Myra and was pointed out by an elderly churchman as the next bishop.

Nicholas was a wealthy man and yet he realised to have true wealth was to give away all that he could. I’m sure Saint Francis of Assisi and other great Saints were influenced by the example of Saint Nicholas. Nicholas gave his all to the Church. He stood firm in the faith even under persecution—like so many Christians face today in parts of the World like Sudan, Pakistan, India. People facing persecution for what they believe because what they believe is a faith based upon a man who gave his life that all the world might have eternal life.

A new way of looking at the world, a new way of looking at God, a new way of looking at each other and a new way of looking at one’s self. Jesus Christ.

Diocletian threw Nicholas in prison, but Nicholas was supported by the prayer of hundreds of people in his diocese, survived and under Constantine was released from prison and lived out his years as a working Bishop.

I love Christmas – even the commercialised bit. I really enjoy buying presents for people I love, the busy-ness and the fun.

When you hear carols in the shops it reminds me that whether people realise it or not they are celebrating the birth of Christ. We might like it if they came to church more often but this whole festival religious and secular proves the reality that you can not take the Christ out of Christmas. Saint Nicholas, whether we think of him as the Bishop of Myra, Santa Claus or Father Christmas, doesn’t compete with our exisitence as Christians, he enriches it and helps us to celebrate the good news.  That’s why we should celebrate Saint Nicholas Day by trying to be a bit more like St Nicholas ourselves.

Some of you may not be quite as fetching as others in a red suit and a bag of toys over your shoulder so what we need is a warm, giving heart, a loving soul and a willingness to share.

To share our faith, our hopes and dreams, even our money and ‘things’ with the people we meet. We may not dress up and sit in a grotto dispensing gifts, but we can be ready to give of ourselves this Christmas time and equally be ready to receive with pleasure the gifts of others. And best of all, God’s gift of eternal life by receiving Jesus Christ into our lives – whether for the first time or in a sense of grateful renewal.

Let us pray

Loving God,

Fill our hearts with the Advent spirit.

Allow us to overflow with the real gifts this season of preparation has to offer.

May we take time to enjoy the blessings of Advent

Let us stop the rush and allow the  risen Lord Jesus to enter our being.

Let us clear our vision and deepen our concern.

May we move  from concern for self,

To a place where we give freely of ourselves

And receive with joy the great gift of salvation the Christ child brings.

Through Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

December 5, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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