31 “Now when the Human One comes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left.
34 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. 35 I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 36 I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’
37 “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. 43 I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ 45 Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’ 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous ones will go into eternal life.”
Many people do not realize that this beloved dispenser of toys was, in fact, a bishop of Myra in the 4th century. Bishop Nicholas was renowned for his generosity, providing food and money to those in need. Many legends portray Nicholas placing money in shoes or stockings left out overnight and some even talk of him dropping purses of money down the chimney at night; all done so that no one could identify him as the giver. His generosity was so well known that centuries after his death (December 6, 343) children were still leaving shoes outside or hanging stockings on his feast day in hopes that he would fill them. Because Nicholas’ feast day falls so close to Christmas his coming was associated with giving gifts to children to remind them of Christ’s birth and God’s present to humanity. This is especially true of the Dutch whose idea of Sinter Klaas is the backdrop for Santa Claus today.
It can probably be argued that our modern notion of Santa Claus giving gifts to good children is far inferior to the original tradition let alone the historical figure of Saint Nicholas. The tradition reminds us that God has given humanity a gift not based on how good we are, rather God gives because of how good God is. God’s gift is available to all in the person of Christ, because of this original gift all saints give gifts to humanity; we work out of the original grace God has given to each of us. Perhaps, though, what we need this Advent is to remember the Real Saint Nicholas, whose loyalty to Christ led him to give to all those in need. This giving was not for his recognition; all his work was done anonymously and if discovered he would give all credit to others and above all God. For him the advent of Christ meant providing for those around him, and we would do well to emulate that mindset and embodiment of love.
Father of humanity, help me to emulate your holy witness, showing generosity throughout my world, yet, humbly deflecting all glory to you as the proper author of all my good deeds, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.