One Little Word

The Third Sunday of Advent; Year A (12/11/2016)

Texts:Isaiah 35:1-10 Psalm 146:5-10 (8) or Luke 1:46b-55 (47) James 5:7-10 St. Matthew 11:2-11

Prayer of the Day: Stir up the wills of all who look to you, Lord God, and strengthen our faith in your coming, that, transformed by grace, we may walk in your way; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

11.2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written,

‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’

11 “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

St. Matthew 11:2-11. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Feast Day of St. Nicholas 

According to a very old legend, about 300 years after the birth of Christ a child was born to a poor family in Turkey. His family didn’t have much, but they always shared with others.

When he was only a teenager he joined a monastery and became a priest.While he was in the monastery he learned of a poor family who lived in the village nearby. The family didn’t have enough money to afford dowries for their teenage daughters, so the daughters couldn’t be married. In those days, unmarried women might starve to death or be sold into slavery.
When the young man heard about this family, he decided to do something. In the dark of night he took a bag of gold — enough for the dowry of the oldest daughter — and went to the family’s house. He didn’t want them to know who had given the gift, so he threw the bag of gold through an opening in their roof (a “chimney” used for heating and cooking). On the following two nights he tossed two more bags through the hole so that the other two daughters would have dowries and could also marry. There are other legends about this man. Most are stories about how he cared for children or people in need. In time he was called “a saint.” Oh, by the way, his name was Nicholas.

That’s right: Saint Nicholas. The one whom we’ve come to call Santa Claus. Quite a difference, isn’t there, between the jolly, red-clad man who sits in malls, a symbol of good fortune (the more you have the more you get…) and the man who made sure that a poor family found the means to allow their daughters to be married (the less you have, the more you get…)?
It’s not such a bad idea, you know: the energy that Saint Nicholas put into caring for those in need was a concrete effort to imitate the ministry of Jesus, and thus celebrate his birth. Not only his birth, but his life and ministry: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”
There were many imitators of Saint Nicholas in the early days. Perhaps it would be wise for us to imitate Saint Nicholas as well, and let his giving spirit be a part of our own Christmas these days — not just by telling the story, but by living it out in our own celebrations, finding ways to express generosity and compassion in Christ’s name.
This day, December 6th, The Feast Day of Saint Nicholas, is a good day to remember that we are sent into the world as a reflection of Christ. This is the legacy of St. Nicholas. May it be our legacy as well.
David J. Risendal, PastorExploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why does John, the Baptizer, send his followers to inquire about Jesus’ ministry?
  2. What evidence does Jesus provide, that might answer John’s question?
  3. How do the efforts of Saint Nicholas continue the work Jesus began?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When has Christ been a source of comfort and strength for me?
  2. How might I or my family make a difference in the lives of those who are in need today?
  3. What concrete act of service might I take this year, as a part of my (or my family’s) Christmas celebration?