Have you looked in your stocking yet?
If you’ve got young children, I’ll bet you hung their stockings in anticipation of St. Nicholas Day, celebrated on December 6 on the Roman Calendar and December 19 on the Julian Calendar.
And I’ll be you all expected those stockings to be filled with treats and small toys.
The custom of St. Nicholas Day in most countries is for St. Nicholas, aka, the parents of the house, to fill the children’s shoes or stockings with treats or small toys after bedtime on St. Nicholas Eve. When the children awake the next morning, they find the wonderful treasures left for them by this mysterious saint.
But, St. Nicholas has treasures for us adults as well – spiritual treasures – special gifts that he can bring to us through his intercession.
I’m sure there are many ways in which St. Nicholas can intercede for us. But, based on his life, I think there are three primary ones that he could put into your stocking this St. Nicholas Day, and there’s still plenty of time to ask for them.
First, you might want to ask for the gift of a generous heart.
St. Nicholas was known for his generosity. His wealthy parents died when he was quite young and rather than keeping his inheritance for himself, he gave it all away to the needy, sick and suffering.
His generosity didn’t stop there. Legends abound about St. Nicholas’ charitable works, but the most famous is that of a poor man who had three daughters.
In those days, a young woman’s father was required to present the groom with a dowry and the larger the dowry, the better the chance of finding his daughter a truly good husband. Without a dowry, the young woman risked being sold into slavery, especially if she were of poor means. The poor man had no dowries for his daughters. Yet, on three occasions, a bag of gold is said to have been thrown through an open window, landing in stockings or shoes that had been left to dry before the fire. The bags held enough for each daughter to have an adequate dowry.
St. Nicholas is credited with making the gold appear. That’s where we get the custom of setting out shoes or stockings on the eve of his feast day. So, why not ask him to bring you a generous heart this St. Nicholas Day?
Second, you might want to ask for the gift of courage.
St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myrna, which is in Lycia (on the Mediterranean coast of modern-day Turkey) during the time of the persecution of Roman Emperor Diocletian. Diocletian was ruthless in his efforts to annihilate the Christian population and imprisoned, exiled, or executed countless bishops, priests, and deacons. St. Nicholas was one of his victims, having been exiled and imprisoned while in advanced age.
Even so, he remained courageous, enduring all that Diocletian sent his way. Eventually, he was released and subsequently attended the Council of Nicea in AD 325. In his years of service to the Church, St. Nicholas demonstrated incredible courage. A simple request to him might land you a good dose of courage in your stocking this year.
Third, you might want to ask for the gift of healing.
St. Nicholas died on December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church. Miraculously, a relic formed in his grave. It was a liquid substance called manna and it’s said to have healing powers. Because of the miracles of healing brought about by the manna, devotion to St. Nicholas grew.
Although any kind of miracle is possible for God through his saints, I wouldn’t recommend asking St. Nicholas to drop manna into your stocking. But, I certainly would ask him for the gift of healing your body, mind, or spirit. Perhaps all three need healing, so ask him.
And while you’re at it, you might want to ask for the gifts of generous hearts, courage, and healing for your family members as well. As you enjoy the edible goodies in each stocking, pause and utter a prayer to St. Nicholas for these gifts. He’s certain to oblige.
I’ll be putting out my stocking this St. Nicholas Day. I have to be honest – I’m definitely hoping to find some chocolate the next morning. But, first and foremost, I’m hoping to experience the gifts of generosity, courage, and healing, courtesy of St. Nicholas of Myra.