December 6, 2016 by Joseph Krohn
Nicholas was born on March 2, 270 AD. He was his wealthy parent’s only child. When his parents died, he was left with a large inheritance and gained a reputation for generosity and giving to the poor. He entered a monastery and was eventually ordained the Bishop of a coastal city in Asia Minor named Myra (in modern day Turkey).
The Bishop of Myra was known for his strong defence of Christ. He opposed aggressively and confrontationally the worship of the pagan god Diana. When Emperor Diocletian came to the throne, Bishop Nicholas was imprisoned and suffered greatly, because he refused to pinch incense and declare the Roman Emperor to be god. Nicholas not only faced the enemies of the Cross of Christ from without, but he also boldly withstood them from within. He stood with Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria and denounced Arianism (which challenged the deity of Christ). He was there at the council of Nicaea and when Arian read his blasphemy, Nicholas was one of the Bishops the screamed “heresy” and stomped upon those rebellious words. He also helped to write the Nicene Creed, which defended the hallmarks of the Christian faith.
In his most famous exploit, a poor man had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and uncared for after their father’s death. Hearing of the girls’ plight, Nicholas decided to help them, but being too modest to help the family in public (or to save them the humiliation of accepting charity), he went to the house under the cover of night and threw three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold coins through the window opening into the house. Another telling of the account has him climbing the roof and throwing the bags of money down the chimney, which landed in the girl’s stockings which were drying by the fire.
According to another legend, during a great famine that Myra experienced in 311–312, a ship was in the port at anchor, which was loaded with wheat for the Emperor in Constantinople. Nicholas invited the sailors to unload a part of the wheat to help in time of need. The sailors at first disliked the request, because the wheat had to be weighed accurately and delivered to the Emperor. Only when Nicholas promised them that they would not suffer any loss for their consideration, the sailors agreed. When they arrived later in the capital, they made a surprising find: the weight of the load had not changed, although the wheat removed in Myra was enough for two full years and could even be used for sowing.
Bishop Nicholas died on December 6, 343 AD at the age of 73. In Holland they remember Bishop Nicholas on December 6, with a special holiday marking his death. His Dutch name is Sinterclause – meaning “The Good Holy Man.” In Holland they depict Nicholas as an elderly bishop of the church, dressed in the regal ropes of his office bearing a shepherd’s crook.
Bishop Nicholas stood for truth; defended his Lord and Saviour and now waits for the calling of His Lord in the final resurrection where he will hear those words: “Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord.”