Excerpted from the past Unity Magazine® column "Metaphysically Speaking."
I know the spirit of St. Nicholas lives. I know he lives because I've learned so much from him. How could I learn from someone who doesn't exist? Here are some things I've learned from St. Nicholas:
• According to ancient traditions of the Church, St. Nicholas was a wealthy bishop who lived more than 1,600 years ago in Asia Minor. Asia Minor is now known as Turkey, but I don't think that has anything to do with the tradition of eating turkey at Christmastime. Nicholas was famous for his generosity. He was also famous for miracles. It is said that he once appeared on a ship, calmed a storm, and immediately vanished from the ship but materialized back at his church on land. It is said that he once raised a murdered child from the dead, forgave the child's murderer, and converted the murderer to Christianity. Love can work miracles.
• It is also said that once during a theological argument, Nicholas punched a man in the nose. Even saints can occasionally lose their tempers.
• According to modern traditions, St. Nicholas prepares for 364 days, then showers the whole world with gifts in one night. The more you put into preparation, the more efficiently you can do your work. Great preparation can accomplish miracles.
• St. Nicholas has amazing powers and also has Mrs. Claus, reindeer, and elves to help him. Even people with amazing powers need helpers.
• St. Nicholas consumes tons of milk and cookies, yet he can fit down a chimney and has lived for more than 1,600 years. No matter what doctors may tell you, milk and cookies are good for you.
• St. Nicholas is overweight, wears outlandish and unstylish red clothes with fur trim, and smokes a pipe. Yet he is loved by millions. No matter what you look like and even if you are a smoker, if you have a beautiful soul, people will love you.
• St. Nicholas does not have a normal job, yet he has given away billions of dollars’ worth of gifts. No matter how odd your work may seem to others, if you do what you love—what you feel called to do—you will have plenty.
• St. Nicholas gives and asks nothing in return, yet he is jolly and laughs a lot. Love can make you very happy.
• Even though he's jolly and laughs a lot, he is still a saint. You don't have to be solemn and serious to be truly spiritual.
When I was a child, I learned how much fun it is to receive gifts from St. Nicholas. As an adult, with children of my own, I have learned that giving is one hundred times more fun than receiving, and I have also learned the following:
• Anticipation of receiving good is just as exciting as receiving it—and lasts longer.
• Hope and faith are rewarded, even if what you get is not exactly what you had in mind.
• Ask and you will receive, even though what you get may not be exactly what you had in mind.
• Sometimes we do not get exactly what we hoped for, but it is still good. Sometimes what we get is more than we hoped for, which is even better.
I believe the birth of Jesus was wonderful and well worth celebrating, but not because it was a miraculous virgin birth nor because angels appeared to shepherds nor because Magi came bearing gifts. I believe the birth of Jesus was wonderful because of the way the Spirit of love worked miraculously through him in word and deed. I believe the spirit of St. Nicholas is that same Spirit. May that Spirit work its magic in you. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good life!