For Unto St. Nicholas A Child Was Born

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Tonight is the night that Santa Claus comes to town. 

Vixen and Blitzen and all his reindeer are pulling on the reins. 

Bells are ringing; children are singing.

He’s got a bag that is filled with toys, for boys and girls. 

Hear those sleigh bells, jump into bed, and cover up your head, because Santa Claus comes tonight.

He comes tonight to deliver gifts to boys and girls. 

Considering all this, tonight I would like us to consider ‘another’ man that gave gifts to boys and girls as well.  This other man’s name is kind of like the name Santa Claus, but slightly different.  His name is Nikolas of Myra; or St. Nicholas for short. 

St. Nicholas was born 1,700 years ago in what we now know as modern day Turkey.  This ancient St. Nicholas was given a large inheritance when his parents passed away and then he used this inheritance to help the needy, the sick, and the suffering.  He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in people’s shoes.  He took care of the poor widows and the orphans in his city.  If the poor and suffering did not have shoes, he would bring them shoes.  If they did not have a blanket, he would bring them a blanket.  If they did not have food, he would bring them food.  Furthermore, as a pastor and a bishop, St. Nicholas took care of other pastors by helping them teach the bible correctly, even at times getting physically angry at heretics who perverted the truth of God’s Word.    

Besides giving gifts and caring for pastors, St. Nicholas experienced ruthless persecution for the Christian faith.  One day he was seized by the local magistrates, tortured, then chained and thrown into prison with many other Christians for his bold confession of the Christian faith. 

After his release from prison, St. Nicholas continued his care of those in need and continued to teach the bible faithfully.  He even helped write something called, the Nicene Creed. 

What made this ancient St. Nicholas so profound is that he “didn't care much whether children were naughty or nice. He knew that children are both naughty and nice at the same time. So are adults. He also knew that Jesus died for everyone, the naughty and the nice, and that both naughty and nice people need Jesus. St. Nicholas wanted everyone to know that. He didn't keep any kind of list that he checked over twice, except maybe a list of all the people in his [church] who needed help. He was careful about making sure that people knew how much God loved them by showing them his love. If you looked at St. Nicholas and saw how much he loved other people, you could see the love of Jesus shining through him.”[1]

You see, St. Nicholas loved Jesus and He knew that he was loved by Jesus.  The reason why?  He knew that Jesus became poor so that we might be rich.  He knew that Jesus came to rescue those who suffered wrong.  He knew that Jesus came to help the poor and needy and to bid the weak to be strong in Him.  He knew that Jesus came to give songs for sighing; to turn darkness to light; and to turn condemnation to forgiveness.[2]

Indeed, St. Nicholas “preached God’s Word and celebrated the Lord's Supper with his congregation. He preached sermons about Jesus . . .  He told people how God sent His Son to be born of the Virgin Mary, how he suffered for our sins under Pontius Pilate, how he died on a cross and was buried to save everyone from death and hell, how He rose from the dead three days later and now reigns as our King, and how Jesus is going to appear very soon to take us to live with Him forever.”[3]

Tonight, I share this with you not as a mere Christmas history lesson, but I share it with you because if St. Nicholas were alive with us right now, he would want you and I to remember this Christmas Eve, God’s gift of His Son, Jesus.  In other words, St. Nicholas would not want you to remember him and his legacy of giving gifts, but would want you and me to know the ultimate gift, the Savior that was born that Christmas Eve long ago - Christ Jesus the Lord. 

You see Christmas is a rather simple message.  It is a message that has a number of beautiful aspects.  But most importantly it is about a grand gift.  It is about a gift that has been given to you, not from St. Nicholas or Santa Claus or from parents or from loved ones, but from God.  It is about how Jesus was sent and then stepped into this world, left the glory of heaven, and humbled Himself, all so that He might travel to the cross for you and for me.  The very purpose of Christmas is that Christ was born for you as gift; He was born to die for you as gift.  This means that the Lord is for you and for me and for St. Nicholas as well. 

Tonight through the testimony of St. Nicholas of Myra and through the Word of God spoken in this service, we hear that Jesus is the one given to you and to me as sheer gift. Thus, as we receive gifts from our loved ones and as we receive gifts tomorrow from Santa Claus, we receive tonight from the Lord’s Word that Christ has been born - born unto you as a Savior.  Indeed, the one who loves you, joined Himself to you, died for you, and rose for you, comes as complete gift – nothing held back – all for you.     

Merry Christmas to you in the name of the one who was born unto you, Christ Jesus the Lord: Amen.

 [1] William Cwirla, Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus, Based on a letter by Francis Church, editor of the New York Sun in a September 21, 1897 editorial reply to Virginia O'Hanion who had written to inquire if Santa Claus really existed.

[2] James Montgomery, Hail to the Lord’s Anointed: Lutheran Service Book (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 398.

[3] William Cwirla, Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus.

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