Christmas Countdown:  7 Days to Christmas

Today’s Christmas Countdown Store:  Santa Claus

(The following story was adapted from “The Nicholas Book: A Legend of Santa Claus,” by William Chad Newsom. Used by permission.)

Here follows a brief account of the life of Nicholas, bishop of Myra. Nicholas was born in Patara in Lycia in the year of our Lord two hundred and seventy; that is, just over nine hundred years ago.

I will not long dwell on the many noble deeds of Nicholas, for they are well known, and many of the stories of his life are already recorded in the writings of Bishop Reginald of Eichstaedt (the longer version of his work is said by some to have been lost, but I have myself seen copies at Rome and Heidelberg; other copies exist as well).

Suffice it to say that throughout the length and breadth of Christendom no man possessed a better name for mercy, sacrifice, and generosity, than Nicholas of Myra. Well-deserved was his good name. Indeed, the name of Nicholas became a byword of benevolence throughout the households of Christendom. Nicholas was, of all men, the giver of gifts.

So the years passed, until Nicholas, now an old man, wracked with pain and sickness, lay upon his deathbed. And he submitted himself to God, and made ready for his departure. And so Nicholas closed his eyes, at the very moment, as it seemed to him, of death.

And it was then the time of Advent, the sixth of December. But while Nicholas yet lived, he was visited by an angel, Cassiel. And he said to Nicholas, “Behold, the Lord hath sent me to you, for it seems good to the King of Heaven to set for you another task, ere you enter wholly into the Heavenly Sabbath rest.”

And as Nicholas listened, the angel told him that God desired to keep him, so that he should not see death, but, like Enoch, and Elijah, be caught away to Heaven for a time. And then it would be the Lord’s pleasure to send him back again, to continue his work, yet in secret, as he had ever sought.

Thus the task set before him was to do as he had done all his life, preaching the Gospel, by words and deeds, and in especial, by acts of mercy and generosity. Cassiel told Nicholas that it was the will of God that he should be a giver of grace-gifts to those in need, and most especially to the undeserving, that the grace of God might be the more magnified.

And the angel told him that he was to rest throughout the year, and to labor only during the blessed seasons of Advent and Christmas; for gifts of gold and food and clothing, being material in nature, are surer signs of the holy materiality which robed the Son of God in His Incarnation. Thus would Nicholas, by gifts and deeds, preach the Gospel of Bethlehem through ages and generations.

And Nicholas said, taking the words of our Lord’s mother as his own, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” And Cassiel then gave to him a gift—a ring of gold set with a red stone. This ring was some of the very last of the gold given to the Christ child by the Magi, and it had been entrusted to Cassiel, one of the very angels who had brought word of the birth of Christ to the Shepherds, and who had attended the Holy Family throughout their lives.

After his season of rest, Nicholas was brought back to this world, and was clothed in scarlet. And he objected to this, protesting that he desired no finery of garment that might draw attention to one called to work in secret. Yet Cassiel overruled him, saying that such were the robes of his office – the scarlet of blood, in honor of the shed blood of our Lord, in whose name alone Nicholas was to labor; and that in any case he could make of his scarlet robes whatsoever sort of clothing he might wish.

And so it was that Nicholas, in this his latter life, took the guise of a humble craftsman. Through all the earth he wandered, doing the work of God with great joy, gifted with the life of the long-livers, the Elven folk, of whom he is the father and chief.

And some say that Nicholas at last made his home in the wild, wintry lands of the far North, where no explorer has ever gone, and some say otherwise. I myself know the truth of this matter, but have sworn never to speak of it.

And thus today he is justly famous throughout all Christendom, and many look to him for guidance on the seas, or the roads, or for the help and comfort of their children. Nicholas is the saviour, under God, of my own life, and of my family. He has tutored me, an unlearned man, and raised me up to the priesthood, and taught me the theology and art of joy. 

And in my conscience I cannot fail to honor him and thank him through all my generations. So to this end have I set down these words: that though he be the secret benefactor of a million, million poor men, yet neither I, who have been graced with the knowledge of his goodness, nor my children, to whom I inscribe this book, should fail in gratitude to God, or to his servant Nicholas, giver of grace-gifts.

 

                        Friar William, The Township of Leyland, St. Stephen’s Day, 1171

 

***

 

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town! Everyone looks forward to the visit of “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” each Christmas Eve. 

We all remember the excitement, the sheer happiness as Christmas Day drew near, and we pondered, not only the presents, but the magic of those mysterious, dark hours of Christmas Eve. 

“Santa Claus” is of course a slightly shortened version of “Saint Nicholas,” and you can hear the similarity in the two names if you listen closely. 

Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop in the fourth century after Christ. He became famous for his generosity and, in particular, for gifts given secretly. Over time, the legends of this great man grew. 

And sometimes, the legends tell us the most important things about a man. 

If we are wise, we will heed the lessons of St. Nicholas as he takes the stage each December.

From him, and from his legends, we can learn the lesson of JOY—unshakeable joy that transcends the perils and pains of life. 

We can also learn the lesson of GENEROSITY—of the truth that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” 

And we can learn the lesson of MAGIC—that there is mystery at the heart of the world, and that our cynical age needs to remember that God is at work with His supernatural power, not only at Christmas, but all year round. 

As you get your Christmas gifts wrapped and ready this year, here’s a fun and fragrant Essential Oil tip that Santa himself would like. 

Let your friends and family experience your warm holiday wishes with an aromatic touch by adding Essential Oils to your Christmas gifts! 

How? Just add 1–3 drops of an Essential Oil to a cotton ball. Place the cotton ball in a sealed plastic bag and store it overnight with your Christmas wrapping paper. Be sure to not let the cotton ball touch the materials or you may end up with an oil stain or discoloration. 

Two favorite oils to add to your Christmas wrapping paper are DOUGLAS FIR and WHITE FIR. 

QUESTION – WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SANTA CLAUS STORY, BOOK, SONG, OR MOVIE?