Last week, I shared some thoughts about your patron saint, St. Andrew. If my seminary had a patron saint, a good choice would be St. Nicholas, whose feast is today. Let me explain.
Nicholas was Bishop of Myra (now Turkey). He died on December 6th, 342. Very little is known about his life but he became a patron saint of seafarers, sailors and most of all, children. Many churches in England bear his name.
This is the connection to General Seminary, my home in New York City for three years. Clement Clarke Moore, who donated the land for the Episcopal Church’s first seminary and was a professor there for 25 years, is known as the author of the poem describing a secularized version of St. Nicholas—Santa Claus. (Some scholars debate his authorship but it has always been attributed to Moore).
An annual tradition for decades was for the dean to read “A Visit from St. Nicholas” to the entire seminary community. The library had many editions of the beloved bit of whimsical fantasy. Moore is said to have written it for his children on Christmas Eve,1822.
A line from one of our hymns for Compline (#42, Now the Day is Over) and the collect for his feast day, help us focus on the original Nicholas and his witness to Jesus’ love.
“Grant to little children, visions bright of thee;
guard the sailors tossing, on the deep blue sea”
Let us pray:
Almighty God, in your love you gave your servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness both on land and sea. Grant, we pray, that your Church may never cease to work for the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The photo below, showing one of our Christmas decorations, helps to keep the sacred and secular joys of Christmas in perspective. This slogan from the Episcopal Ad Project from several years ago, makes the same point:
“The important news at Christmas is not who came down the chimney, but who came down from heaven.”
See you on Sunday!