The longer it has been since something has happened, the more difficult it becomes to separate fact from fiction. Such is the case with a man by the name of Nicholas, born to wealthy Christian parents in the third century. His parents died while he was still quite young, and he decided to follow the teachings of Jesus which stated that he should sell what he had and give it to the poor. Therefore, he spent his entire inheritance assisting the needy, sick, and suffering. One of the stories that seems to rise above the fiction and have its basis in fact is one told about a poor man who had three daughters. In those days, if a girl didn't have a dowery, her chances of marriage were slim and she would be destined to be sold into slavery. However, on three different occasions, a bag of gold was mysteriously tossed through the open window, reportedly landing in stockings or shoes left out by the fire to dry. Given by Nicholas, now Bishop of Myra, the money saved these girls from a life of slavery. Thus began a tradition of hanging up stockings or setting out shoes in anticipation of gifts from Saint Nicholas.
When Jesus came as a baby over two thousand years ago, He came as the greatest gift ever given to humankind. Later, Jesus would tell a group of pharisees, after He had healed a man born blind, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). This Christmas season, let's remember that it really is all about giving and not receiving. Nicholas, though he was persecuted and imprisoned for his faith in Jesus, continued to serve Him and serve the needy around him. Today, his life has been mixed with folklore and legend to create Santa Clause, but even he exists to give. So next time you see a roly poly man in a red suit, think about the life of Nicholas and the gift of Jesus who inspired him, and learn that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive. You can hang up your stockings if you want and enjoy the gifts that are given you, but make sure you also give, because that is truly what this season is all about.