This week, our candle will help us remember another disciple, Saint. Nicholas–The Real St. Nicholas, who was born in the third century A.D. and who died on December 6, A.D. 343. Born of wealthy parents, he took seriously Jesus’ command to “sell all you have and give it to the poor”, and he had a passion for the just treatment of all. Over the centuries, Saint Nicholas has morphed/transformed/mutated into jolly old St. Nick or Santa Claus, who bears little resemblance to the pictures of a thinner, gaunt, ascetic Saint Nicholas. In some Christian traditions he is still honored on St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6. which has the advantage of keeping his memory alive apart from much of the “Winter Festival” and commercialism that abounds in the more secular celebrations of Christmas.
A website dedicated to Saint Nicholas tells us, “as a bishop, Nicholas, servant of God, was first and foremost a shepherd of the people, caring for their needs. His active pursuit of justice for his people was demonstrated when he secured grain in time of famine, saved the lives of three men wrongly condemned, and secured lower taxes for the city of Myra. He taught the Gospel simply, so ordinary people understood, and he lived out his faith and devotion to God in helping the poor and all in need” (www.stnicholascenter.org)
Our scripture lesson will be taken from the Letter of James, with its famous passages, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works?…….faith, by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”