A long tradition is for the children of the parish to gather on the Eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, to celebrate the source of our culture’s fascination with Ol’ St. Nick, Jolly Old St. Nicholas, Sinter Klaus, Santa Claus, whose very source of ministry and mission was Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
There are several connections we attempt to make with the children who attend between St. Nicholas and the Christmas feast, between this patron saint of children (and sailors) and the Church today. We do that without losing the sense of wonder and delight in things “beyond the veil.” So we allow the old custom (most faithfully carried out these days by the northern Europeans, especially the Dutch) of one shoe left outside the door – in this case of the nave – hoping that ol’ St. Nick will indeed make a stop with his horse, in visiting children around the globe.
In the meantime, we worship by singing some fun songs (like “Kids of the Kingdom” and “Jesus loves me this I know”), praying together, hearing Jesus speak to us about loving each other, just as he has loved us, and that this is his new commandment, by hearing the application of that commandment in the life and ministry of Bishop Nicholas. We take some time to learn that the vestments brought back to the Anglican Communion through the Anglo-Catholic movement in the 1800’s, and now the default vesting uniform in The Episcopal Church and other Provinces, is most likely in essence the same as what Bp Nicholas might have worn. The first photo – although blurred, sorry – shows Fr. Eaton proclaiming, “Behold, the cincture!” … or “rope” as they all said in response to the question, “What is this?”
This year, just as we finished saying the Lord’s Prayer together, we hear the horse bells outside the door, and we all ran out to catch a hoped-for glimpse of the good bishop himself. We did see him, as he glided around the corner of the office building in the dark, and then out of sight. Two of our youngsters are convinced they saw him go into the rector’s office — but upon investigation he proved nowhere in sight.
After the excitement of nearly catching up with St. Nicholas, noting that the carrot and apple left for the horse had been gnawed on, and the waffle left for the bishop had been partially consumed, and seeing all the goodies piled up in our shoes, we went into the parish hall and had a little party with our goodies, the super balls, the tops, the necklaces, some hot chocolate and cider, and conversation.
A good time was had by all. May good memories be retained that our parish is a good place, a safe place, a fun place, and most importantly where we make connections to Jesus, and are challenged to be His disciples.