Friday, January 4, 2019

The Man Behind Santa

Are between Christmas and New Years.  So - another Christmas message.

St. Nicholas - born approximately 270 AD at Patara - port on the Mediterranean Sea in present day Turkey.

Parents died while he was a boy so was raised by his Uncle Nicholas - founder and chief bishop at New Zion Monastery.  Led to Nicholas' desire to become a monk.

While still young, he decided to give away his inheritance AND to do so quietly.(anonymously)

Was sent as a teen to study at Alexandria, Egypt at the Christian School of Alexandria founded by John Mark.  = 1st. Christian Seminary.

Next he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land  to round out education.
Hoped for conformation of his desire to be a monk.
However, Received a call in a vision/dream.   "This is not the vineyard where you shall bear fruit for me.  Return to the world and glorify my name there."   which lead to NOT a life of seclusion but a life of Public Ministry.

On way home, stops at port of Myra - enters church early one morning to pray and give thanks.  Unbeknown to Nicholas, the chief bishop of the area had died.  Other bishops had gathered to choose successor.  Legend = oldest, wisest bishop had a dream that God said .."1st. person named Nicholas to enter the church is to be chief bishop."

So.......  Bishop of Myra  (served there unitl death in 343.)

Nicholas was imprisoned for approximately 7 years during the Great Persecution by Diocletian, Roman Emperor at that time.

Then came Edict of Toleration in 311 - stating that Christianity was to be tolerated!
Next in 313 - Edict of Milan - by Constantine - Christianity Approved!

Nicolas = released, returned to Myra, resumed office of Bishop.  Was instrumental in the Council of Nicea.

Continued as Bishop of Myra until his death, and eventually was sainted.  Was patron saint of many groups/peoples, especially (1)  sailors  and (2)  children

Then St. Nicholas led to Father Christmas, Sinter Klauss, Santa Claus.  Various depictions by Thomas Nast in 1881, and Norman Rockwell in 1939.

Scripture says "imitate great men, women of faith" - Paul - 1 Cor. 4:16, Heb. 6:12, 13:7

But.... how to imitate a Nicholas??

On one hand, you can't - was his call, his gift package, work of the Holy Spirit, the times, opportunities, etc. - all unique and according to God's specific plan, call for him.

However, all great saints are characterized by common Christian traits --
                 which we can duplicate and which we are called to imitate.

So... Ordinary Traits of an Extra Ordinary Christian  
Nicholas was....
#1.  A Seeker - of God, God's truth, God's will.   Deut. 4:29
     A.)  requires effort
     B.)  is a Life long pursuit  - example:  Paul - Phil. 3:10-15

Jesus stressed "be content with things you have, BUT never content with your Spiritual attainments!!
"blessed are poor in spirit, mourn, hunger & thirst.."

Which leads to:  therefore,
#2.  A Student - can't do God's will if you don't know God's will!
                          can't teach His ways if don't know His ways
                          can't portray His character if don't know His character.

Example:  parents dedicate child to God's will but never truly seek to learn God's will
New Testament word "disciple" - which = a learner/student

Seeker/student naturally leads to....
#3.  A Responder - Luke 6:46
Nicholas - wanted to be a monk, live life of seclusion.  Was called to be Bishop, public service.
Could have refused the call.

POINT:  submit whatever the call.
The One who said "go into all the world..."  also said "wash one another's feet..."
So, that leads to:

#4.  A Servant - "Great leaders in God's Kingdom are Always Servants.  Matt. 23:11-12

So, if not gifted, called, enabled to do great things, nevertheless, ARE gifted, called, enabled to Serve!!
Example:  Peter and the post-resurrection Instructions he received:  feed my sheep, nurture my lambs, shepherd my flock.
which leads to:  just a servant of the people, but MORE than just a servant of the people:

also, #5 - An Advocate for the people.  ie: a helper, defender, protector.  Also a promoter, enable,r developer to pick up, lift up, build up.

Point:  making use of YOUR position, influence, clout.  Example:  Peter called to nurture, now calls others to Nurture - 1 Pet. 5:1-2

Naturally, if responder/servant.. then also:

#6.  A Steward - a manager of the Master's wealth, one who handles what's been entrusted 
(money, time, talents, opportunities, etc.)  1 Cor. 4:1-2

Could list other traits.
POINT = all great saints, miracle workers, world changers are:
         (1)  characterized by common Christian traits
         (2)  traits that you and I can imitate
         (3)  traits that we are CALLED to duplicate!

Which = accept, receive
              promote, make known

Closing Scripture:  Heb. 6:9-12

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