"Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Mark 10:14
They say he was shy, and did not want to embarrass a dear, faithful man, so Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, found a way to provide for the man's children. The man had three daughters and the eldest of them was to be married, but the father was so poor, they had so little that he not only could not give his daughter a wedding, he was contemplating what he thought his only choice, which was to sell his daughters, possibly into prostitution. This was a broken man. Nicholas is said to have tossed a bag of gold through the window in the dead of night, and done the same thing on two successive nights (or when the other girls were older, some stories say). When the stories of Nicholas were told in colder climates, the gold was tossed down a chimney. And in some the gold appeared in the shoes that the family set out at night. All of these customs have become part of our inherited customs at Christmas. Nicholas, in his faithfulness, becomes the symbol of the anonymous, completely selfless gift, and the caretaker of vulnerable children and families.
His generosity and protection, transparently demonstrates Christ's love for the world, poured out for the most vulnerable among us. There are many stories and legends about Nicholas, and the miracles he performed in his life time, but his witness to self giving love has remained a singular gift to the spiritual imagination of the whole world.
Parents and their children continue to be vulnerable across our world today. Fathers and mothers contemplate hard choices with hearts broken, their spirits on the ground. I know only too well what it is like to want to provide for a child and to be challenged and helpless with the need. Love and protection are challenged in the best of times, but when the world is faced with a broken economic system, the poor and vulnerable suffer the worst. Today, on the feast day of St. Nicholas, I want to find ways to quietly broadcast the love of Christ to the people I encounter today. I want to be a transparent vessel, so that God's generosity might pour through me. I don't have bags of gold to throw in windows in the night (or down chimneys), but there are many other ways I can share what I have been given. Today, I want to untie all the binds that keep me from seeing the needs of others. I want to be an agent of "letting the children come" rather than a barrier to innocence and hope. May God grant me a small measure of another bishop's compassion this day. And may we all, like Nicholas, listen to the stories of the broken in our midst and respond from the heart of God.