During a time of year when images of a certain “jolly fat elf” seem to be as ubiquitous as the sparkling lights and hanging greenery found about town, perhaps it might do to look deeper into this figure that has come to be perceived as nothing less than some sort of secular demi-god.
In the year 280 A.D. a boy named Nicholas was born in a provincial fishing village along the southwest coast of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkiye).
He lost his parents at a young age due to an epidemic, but not before they helped him discover the gift of faith in Jesus Christ.
Nicholas moved to the nearby town of Myra as a young man, and quickly dedicated himself to a life of giving and service to others, so much so that the populace clamored for him to be named as their Bishop… a position that only amplified his dedication to the ministry of the Gospel.
Over the years that followed, Nicholas lived his life in the example of Jesus Christ – exhausting a wealthy inheritance left to him by his parents in caring for the poor and disadvantaged.
Stories of his generosity spread like wildfire… it was told how, despite his rank and position, he begged for food for the poor; but the story most often repeated was how he would put on a disguise and go out to give gifts to underprivileged children and needy families. In fact, Nicholas gave away everything he ever had, including that which he begged from others.
Nicholas lived a life dedicated to the service of others and the message of Jesus Christ, often suffering harsh persecution and imprisonment under the chaotic rule of the waning Roman Empire.
He died in the year 314 A.D. and his body was later moved to Italy, where it remains interred in the Basilica di San Nicola to this day. But the story of Nicholas of Myra soon spread all over the world.
Over the span of centuries hence, people have done many things to Nicholas… both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have canonized him, and more European churches are named in honor Nicholas than any other person, save for Biblical figures.
Various others have given him different names: Belschnickel, Kris Kringle, Santa Claus, and a host of others. An English poet gave Nicholas a red nose and eight tiny reindeer, a German artist gave him a round belly and a red fur trimmed suit… but those things really are not important, are they?
What truly matters is the life lived in the example and mindset of Jesus Christ, an example to be pursued by all of us whom claim the Name above all others.
The life Nicholas lived in meekness, humility, and selfless love touched the whole world… and that is the true story of jolly ol` St. Nick.