What comes to mind when you hear “Santa Clause” or “St Nick?” Is it a jolly old man with a white beard, big belly, and a red suit??? For most of us it is. You’d probably be surprised to hear that in reality St Nicholos was Greek, with olive colored skin and dark eyes. He did seem to have a short white beard, but there was no Christmas cookie belly or red suit ;). He was known for his generosity, but there was a lot more to his story than just that. Life didn’t seem to treat him fairly and robbed him of his loved ones at a young age. He went through a lot, but he used what he had to bless others.
Life isn’t fair for a lot of us!! I know it, and you know it. Life can be so difficult. Some of the nicest people in the world get treated horrible. They are betrayed, persecuted, and never seem to catch a break. I’ve also seen some “not so nice people” who seem to get everything handed to them. It’s puzzling.
We do not get to pick what life hands to us, but we do get to pick how we respond. We get to choose if we use what we have (or don’t have) for good. WE CHOOSE if we’re going to ask God to mold us and purify us THROUGH the fires of life, or if we’re going to let ourselves fall into self pity, bitterness, jealousy and many other ugly characteristics.
I’m 25 years old and live in bed due to Chronic Lyme Disease, a TBI(Traumatic Brain Injury), and a condition called POTS (Postural Orthastatic Tachycardia Syndrome}. Next to my bed is my walker that I have to use to get to my bathroom… That’s right a walker. I’m 25yrs old and walk like a little old lady ;). I laugh at myself cause seeing myself walk is kinda humorous to look at. I naturally (before my sickness) am a very energetic person who is always on the go. So I never thought I’d have to use a walker in my life even when I hit the ripe old age of 85. I expected to be one of those old ladies who is active in life and independent. But life doesn’t always hand you what you expect.
If I leave my house I have to use a wheelchair because my POTS makes me lose all the blood to my brain and pass out if I walk longer than 5 minutes. The POTS does cause me to be bedridden and also supplies a dozen or so additional symptoms like, nausea, weakness, exhaustion, brain fog, vision problems etc. That on top of my TBI and Chronic Lyme disease (which causes severe nerve pain throughout my entire body 24/7 as well as many other symptoms) well it exhausts me and adds to the reason I’m sick and bedridden.
Well when I do use my walker (usually to get to the bathroom that’s about 20ft away) I have a quote I taped to my walker. It says,” Life is 10℅ what happens to you, 90℅ how you respond.” Which means if everything you can imagine going wrong on this earth happens to you, you can still pass with a 90℅ which is an “A.” I’m just kidding, I don’t think we get grades on life. But I do think our choices determine 90℅ of our lives. We all have bad things happen to us but we choose how we respond.
So that brings us back to our dear old friend St. Nick. He lived about 1700yrs ago (300years after Christ was resurrected). Nick was born to a Greek family, a wealthy Greek family. Unfortunately life didn’t feel so wealthy for him since he was orphaned and BOTH of his parents died when he was just a child. That kind of grief and pain I can only imagine. Any orphan out there reading this knows how horrible and tragic that is to go through.
So many of us would of been bitter at life and mad at God if this happened to us. We’d go through life with a “chip on our shoulders” singing the song “poor me” as we grew more angry at life, people, and God. But Nicholas, well he didn’t. He grew more loving, giving, and charitable as the years passed.
At some point in his life he was touched by the love of Jesus. He was a devout Christian, which was not popular at this time. I don’t know if his parents raised him this way, or if he found God after their deaths. But I do know that he was so touched that God would give up His life, and come down to this earth to be mocked, lied about, persecuted, and finally tortured and put to death. All this while Jesus did nothing wrong.
Jesus taught us how to live. He taught us how to love, not just by His words but by His sacrifice. The ultimate sacrifice He gave so that we who mocked, lied about, and persecuted Him would be able to go spend eternity with Him in the most amazing place you can imagine… HEAVEN. God wanted us to live the rest of our lives in eternity WITH Him, that’s how much He loves us. And that’s why He sacrificed His life on the cross for us. That’s love. And Nick, well He saw that love of God and he lived His life with God’s love in His heart.
So instead of wallowing in self pity and dying an angry old man what happened to Nick?? Well he used his inheritance, the wealth his parents left him to bless others. He was considered one of the most generous men. And he didn’t try to get credit for it either which is pretty cool.
One story of his gift giving/generosity plays out for a poor family. A father and his 3 daughters who were financially struggling so much they were almost starving. To make things worse, in this culture at this time a woman couldn’t get married unless her parents gave her future husband and/or his family a dowry (money to marry her). This was the custom and therefore there was no hope for any of these 3 daughters to ever get married or have children.
Things had gotten so bad for the family that finally the only way they knew how to bring money home to feed themselves was to sell the oldest daughter into prostitution. Somehow Nick heard/found out about this family. So the night before she was going to be sold into prostitution Nick snuck down to their house. He had a bag of money (enough for a dowry for the eldest daughter). Some say he left it on the doorstep, others say he threw it in the window over the fireplace and it landed in their shoes. Over the years “shoes” turned to socks/stockings which eventually turned into the tradition of hanging stockings over the fireplace and filling them with gifts.
Well I can only imagine how overjoyed and relieved this family would have been to find this gift. The eldest daughter had her dowry money and I assume went on to get married. But there was still the problem of the 2 other daughters. Each year (as the next daughter was getting ready to be sold into prostitution) Nick left a bag of money for her dowry money. Nick did this for 3 years, but the 3rd year he was caught. As Nick was sneaking onto their property the father spotted Nick. The father rushed outside to Nick and was overfilled with gratitude as he thanked Nick for saving his family.
Nick went on to bless and save others in need with his money. He didn’t look to money to satisfy him by living the life of wealth and comfort. Nick had found true satisfaction when he found Jesus. So he didn’t look to his money to satisfy him, he looked to the Lord. And he happily gave what he had (his money) away to help others.
We all have the choice to live bitter and in self pity for the losses we have suffered. Or we can take what we have (whatever it is even if it’s not money and it’s just a smile or treating others with kindness) we all have things we can share with others. Nick is an inspiration of generosity and kindness. But too often we look to Santa as the “spirit of Christmas” and the “spirit of giving.” I think this would have greatly saddened Nick. For the real hero, the real inspiration is Jesus and all He gave for us to live with God in our hearts here on earth and one day to live and walk with God in heaven. Jesus is the reason for the season. Jesus is the inspiration of love and kindness and giving. Nick merely was trying to let God use him and fill his heart with love for others.
It’s easy for us to look to people or idolize them like Nick who became a “Saint” in the Catholic church. I know Nick would have wanted us to look to God to help us have a spirit of giving and generosity. I’m not saying Nick isn’t an inspiration. I absolutely believe Nick IS an inspiration of more than generosity, Nick is an inspiration of the CHOICE we have with our lives. Will we wallow in self pity from the trials we face and the losses we’ve suffered??? Or will we use our lives to bless others?? Will we let Satan beat us up and relive the betrayals and suffering we’ve gone through?? Or will we let God heal our hearts and help us through our trials?? Will we let God use whatever we have to bless others?? Even if you don’t have money or time, use what you do have. Maybe that is just showing someone kindness, a listening ear, or giving a stranger a smile. God can use these things and use you in ways you don’t realize if you just give what you do have.
I often feel like I have NOTHING to offer. I’m stuck in bed. It’s hard for me to leave the house. I’m broke and trying to pay for medical bills. I’m tired and exhausted and only have an hour or two at a time that I can visit someone before I have to rest in the dark and quiet to calm down my pain and other symptoms. What do I have to give this world?? Well God’s showed me through this journey that even if the family I live with are the main and sometimes only people I see, I can still give them kindness and hopefully make their days a little bit better.
Prayer is something all of us can give, even if you’re busy at work, you can pray in your mind while you’re working. Or if you have a lot of time on your hands and are stuck in bed like me, or maybe don’t have a job at the moment, or maybe you stay home with the kids, well you have more time to pray for others, and that makes a difference in ways we can’t always see. God’s also showed me that He can use my words to encourage others if I let Him. So I try to encourage my friends and family in the ways that I can.
I often feel like I’m such a burden on my family. I need help to bathe, I often need help to get to the bathroom (when I’m weak and can’t walk). I can’t fix my food or even get my medicine organized for the day (my mom does all of this for me). She and my dad always tell me I’m not a burden and they’re happy to help and take care of me. I am blessed and I am so grateful for that. But still I feel like there isn’t much I can do or much I can give. But when I’m open hearted and look to God, He shows me how to use what I do have. And sometimes all I have is a smile to give. But God can still use it. If God can use me (who is laid up in bed and can barely do anything) He can use you. Just look to Him and ask Him and He will show you how to give kindness, money, time, prayer, encouragement, or anything else that you might have to bless others.
Nick eventually became a bishop. but he didn’t live to be old or immortal like the Santa we hear of in movies and books. He didn’t go on to live in the North Pole. But he probably did live in the cold for many years of his life since he was arrested for his faith and put in a cold prison cell. He died in his sixties. He spent many years in prison and probably had no idea that his story would pass on or help inspire others.
So when you see a picture, or movie, or poster of Santa Clause this season (or for every Christmas to come) I hope you can remember who the real Nick was. How the real hero was and is Christ. And because Nick knew of the sacrifice and love and heroics of Jesus Christ, he lived out his life in a way that showed kindness and giving. When you see Santa think about the CHOICES we have. What choice will you make with your trials?? Will you live in anger, depression and self pity?? Or will you use what you have to bless others :)???
I wish all of you a Very MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! I hope this season you will let God soften your heart and heal you. I hope that your heart will be filled with joy and gratitude as you reflect on the sacrifices God made to come down as a baby and live His life hear on earth, and eventually die on a cross for our sins. He is amazing, and He loves YOU. He loves YOU more than you can imagine :). Merry Christmas everyone!!!!! 🙂