St. Nicholas Service

Title:St. Nicholas Service

Bulletin Date: December 11, 2011 5:00 am


St. Nicholas Prayer Service

December 11, 2011

Welcome 

Dear friends,



We are gathered here in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (making the sign of the cross).



Grace and peace from God, our Father, and Jesus Christ, our Lord.

A warm welcome to this prayer service in which we will gather around the Word of the Lord, together with St Nicholas. 

Let us quiet our hearts and in this place pray and become receptive to what cannot be seen and to what goes beyond words.

 

 

 

Opening Prayer

Good Father,
With delight we commemorate today your servant Nicholas of Myra.
He resembles your Son:
In him we see what your Holy Spirit can accomplish;
In his life we see something of your presence.
We ask you to
strengthen our hope,
that we, too, like Nicholas,
one day may rest in your peace.
This we ask through Jesus Christ,

as He alone is the Holy One,
He alone the Lord in eternity. Amen.

In the oldest stories about Saint Nicholas, he emerges as
       savior of people in distress
       helper of the poor,
       helper of the oppressed,

       defender of an orthodox interpretation of the gospel,
       opponent to dishonestly acting rulers,
       defender of innocent victims of corruption and misuse of power,
       intercessor before both a civil tribunal and the heavenly one.

Reading from the prophet Isaiah (11.1-5)

Stories about St Nicholas

 Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.

One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.

One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer, as not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the king said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios‘ parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas’ feast day approached, Basilios‘ mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios‘ safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king’s golden cup. This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which became his primary role in the West.

Another story tells of three theological students, traveling on their way to study in Athens. A wicked innkeeper robbed and murdered them, hiding their remains in a large pickling tub. It so happened that Bishop Nicholas, traveling along the same route, stopped at this very inn. In the night he dreamed of the crime, got up, and summoned the innkeeper. As Nicholas prayed earnestly to God the three boys were restored to life and wholeness. In France the story is told of three small children, wandering in their play until lost, lured, and captured by an evil butcher. St. Nicholas appears and appeals to God to return them to life and to their families. And so St. Nicholas is the patron and protector of children.

Several stories tell of Nicholas and the sea. When he was young, Nicholas sought the holy by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There as he walked where Jesus walked, he sought to more deeply experience Jesus’ life, passion, and resurrection. Returning by sea, a mighty storm threatened to wreck the ship. Nicholas calmly prayed. The terrified sailors were amazed when the wind and waves suddenly calmed, sparing them all. And so St. Nicholas is the patron of sailors and voyagers.

Other stories tell of Nicholas saving his people from famine, sparing the lives of those innocently accused, and much more. He did many kind and generous deeds in secret, expecting nothing in return. Within a century of his death he was celebrated as a saint. Today he is venerated in the East as wonder, or miracle worker and in the West as patron of a great variety of persons-children, mariners, bankers, pawn-brokers, scholars, orphans, laborers, travelers, merchants, judges, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, children, sailors, victims of judicial mistakes, captives, perfumers, even thieves and murderers! He is known as the friend and protector of all in trouble or need (see list).

Sailors, claiming St. Nicholas as patron, carried stories of his favor and protection far and wide. St. Nicholas chapels were built in many seaports. As his popularity spread during the Middle Ages, he became the patron saint of Apulia (Italy), Sicily, Greece, and Lorraine (France), and many cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Belgium, and the Netherlands (See list). Following his baptism in Constantinople, Vladimir I of Russia brought St. Nicholas’ stories and devotion to St. Nicholas to his homeland where Nicholas became the most beloved saint. Nicholas was so widely revered that more than 2,000 churches were named for him, including three hundred in Belgium, thirty-four in Rome, twenty-three in the Netherlands and more than four hundred in England.

Nicholas’ tomb in Myra became a popular place of pilgrimage. Because of the many wars and attacks in the region, some Christians were concerned that access to the tomb might become difficult. For both the religious and commercial advantages of a major pilgrimage site, the Italian cities of Venice and Bari vied to get the Nicholas relics. In the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari succeeded in spiriting away the bones, bringing them to Bari, a seaport on the southeast coast of Italy. An impressive church was built over St. Nicholas’ crypt and many faithful journeyed to honor the saint who had rescued children, prisoners, sailors, famine victims, and many others through his compassion, generosity, and the countless miracles attributed to his intercession. The Nicholas shrine in Bari was one of medieval Europe’s great pilgrimage centers and Nicholas became known as "Saint in Bari." To this day pilgrims and tourists visit Bari’s great Basilica di San Nicola.

Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.

Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas’ feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves! In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint’s horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.

Prayers

Let us pray to God who loves us
and asks us to share this love with others,
like Jesus did, and Nicholas.

For all those charged with responsibilities
in our society,
May they always, like Saint Nicholas,
act righteously,
honestly,
without self-interest,
with a warm heart for the weak.
      Let us sing in prayer . . .
      Lord Jesus, come and hear our prayer
      and give us love and peace.

May this celebration of Saint Nicholas,
the warm-hearted children’s friend and liberator of the oppressed,
keep our eyes, ears and hearts open
to the poverty, the hunger, the sickness,

the exploitation and the abuse
that innumerable children can never be saved from without help;
May it incite us to be, through prayer and deeds,
a blessing for them.
      Let us sing in prayer . . .
      Lord Jesus, come and hear our prayer
      and give us love and peace.

May we, as people of this parish,
with Bishop Nicholas as our guide,
take the road to the feast of the Emmanuel: Christmas,
being young at heart,  friendly, playful,
full of dreams, and fulfilled in hope.
      Let us sing in prayer . . .
      Lord Jesus, come and hear our prayer
      and give us love and peace

Lord, our God, listen to the prayers of this congregation,
so that this celebration of your servant Nicholas
may become the feast of your freely given love
for all those, who, like him,
want to walk in your way.

Let us now, standing, hand in hand, pray the prayer Jesus himself taught us, the prayer that Nicholas undoubtedly prayed so many times, and that we have in common with all Christians all over the world:
Our Father . . .

Closing Prayer

Lord, this Advent season is a season full of surprises,
of mystery, a season of being extra nice to each other.

After all, this is how Nicholas was:
one in a thousand, righteous, encouraging,
humble, and doing good for everyone around him.
He was a living surprise for all those who were
in distress in every possible way.
And so he lives on in his feast and in us.

Lord, let us be open
to your surprises,
to everything that turns out
differently than we had dreamed.
Grant us to be a surprise for others.
Amen.

Sending and Blessing

Let us thank God and each other for this encouraging gathering in prayer.

Let us, before we leave here, do one of the most beautiful things Christians can do for each other, let us bless each other, saying, "God walks with us and ‘sees that it is good.’"

Let us bless each other
in everything we do,
in everything we go through,
in everything that happens to us.

Let us bless each other
in this life we share,
vulnerable as it is.

He who is God and good, blesses us
in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.



Amen.

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