St. Nicholas Day | JOY for Today

There is a reason that St. Nicholas became a Saint. As we glimpse into his life this season, may we awaken to opportunities for giving that surround us. And may these opportunities bring peace and JOY because we know we are cheerfully giving from the abundant warehouses of God's provision.

Steaming coffee cups and warm gloves sit on a table with red carnations to the back right. Text over lay quotes Matthew 25:35-36 and reminds that St. Nicholas Day is December 6th Annually
Background image courtesy of Jill Wellington via Pixabay

JOY for Today Offerings:

Did You Know:

  1. St. Nicholas lost his parents at an early age? They died in an epidemic. After his parents died, Nicholas used his inheritance to assist others in need: financially, physically, and emotionally. (St. Nicholas Center)
  2. St. Nicholas was once imprisoned? Roman Emperor Diocletian persecuted Christians relentlessly, and Nicholas was one of the many Christians that populated Roman prisons leaving no room for "typical" prisoners. (St. Nicholas Center)
  3. A liquid substance with healing powers formed in St. Nicholas grave? Given the name manna, people responded to this healing substance with their devotion to his memory. (St. Nicholas Center)
  4. Oranges in stockings symbolize a story of dowries? One story of Nicholas' generosity is of a man with three daughters who had no money for dowry. To save them from slavery, Nicholas threw a bag of money (sometimes described as a gold ball) into the man's window on three separate occasions to cover each daughter's dowry. The money landed in shoes that were left in front of the fire to dry. To memorialize the story, we hang stockings or put out shoes and find them filled with oranges or gold coins. (St. Nicholas Center)
  5. St. Nicholas did not go from house to house leaving presents for children? While he was known to care deeply and intercede for others in miraculous ways - saving children from slavery, resurrecting murdered children, and calming stormy waters - tales of him annually gifting children with small presents are missing from his charitable deeds list. (St. Nicholas Center)

We'd Love to Know:

Which fact about St. Nicholas surprises you most.

Wolfe Stew Connects

As I read Nicholas' story, I'm struck with a feeling of disbelief. First, I cannot imagine losing my parents at a young age, but then to use all they left me to help others - that's a story of heroism right there. The kind of story that makes me want to be a better human. 

Unfortunately, whenever the subject of giving arises, my stomach clenches, my ears tune in to the ambient noises around me, my mind focuses on brainstorming polite ways to decline, and my hands clutch my figurative pocketbook. 

The Bible tells us to be a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), that it's better to give than receive (Acts 20:35), and when anyone asks, to give without expectation of return (Luke 6:35). But this is a hard thing to do - nearly impossible. I have a responsibility to provide for my family (I Timothy 5:8) and my future (Proverbs 13:22), don't I? And what about protecting myself from the evil intentions of others (2 Timothy 3:2-5)? Why would I give money to everyone who asks me for it? Wouldn't that leave me penniless? Is that really the posture God wants me in, dependent on the mercy of others?

I know He wants me to depend on His mercy. But could He really expect me to sell all my possessions, give to the needy, and depend on the mercy of fallible, selfish people like myself?

I know He expected it of His disciples. When He asked his disciples to follow Him, He asked them to leave everything behind (Matthew 9:9, 16:24, and 19:21). When He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God, they were told not to bring anything on their trips but to rely on the generosity of the people they met along the road (Luke 9:3-5). 

Maybe being forced to rely on the mercy of others gives them an opportunity to practice mercy. Maybe it keeps me in a humble state and forces me to trust God for provision.

The best I can tell, this is His kingdom come, Friends. His kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven, would be us having no need of personal possessions because we all care for the interests of one another and have confidence that what we truly long for awaits us in heaven

But it feels a little like a trust fall. If I sell all my possessions and go all in, how do I know I can trust you to provide for me? Sorry, I can't trust you to care for me; I don't know you. But I do trust Jesus. 

And the more I think on it, the more this feels precisely like what Jesus longs for us to be able do. It is so typical of Him, isn't it? To ask us to do the hard things? He asks us to do things that are contrary to our human nature: loving our enemies (Luke 6:27), praying for those who persecute us (Luke 6:28), selling all our possessions to give to those in need (Luke 12:33), being anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6), and refusing to fear (Joshua 1:9). All these statements are growth opportunities for me.

So, how do we do it? If we look for advice from one who seemingly managed part of it, St. Nicholas' answer is, "by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves," which echos Paul's explanation of salvation given in Ephesians 2:8-9.

I am NOT asking you to give away all you have, nor do I have plans to do so. What I hope to learn from Nicholas' story is to watch more closely for those around me who are in need, to give to them according to their needs, and to trust God for direction and provision to restore my needs. 

The cheerful giver verse is about the state of your heart. If you feel hesitant or pressured about your giving, you should not give. Instead, when you honestly feel cheerful about your giving, this is when you give:
  1. Giving my credit card information to the pushy salesman from the "charitable" company. No, that's a pass for me.
  2. Noticing that my nephew would enjoy companionship and choosing to give of my time to ease his loneliness. That's a yes for me.
As we enter this season of giving, let's check the state of our hearts: are we giving out of coercion or reluctance? Then, pass! But look for opportunities to give cheerfully, in ways that you know are adding life and light to His kingdom here on earth.

Spending time with us is one of the many ways that God gives to His children. In fact, He promises never to leave us. Join us in our GROWTH focus next week where we will spend each day exploring the promise of Immanuel.  Let us persist in His presence, Conquerors!

For Reflection:

Why do you think Jesus told us to sell our possessions and give to the needy? How are you willing to cheerfully give (in a way that brings life and light to His kingdom) this holiday season? What are warning signs for you that you are giving out of reluctance or coercion? How might you forego giving in these situations?

Bible Verses and Quotes 

Bible Verses

  • "Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it." Luke 12:33 NLT
  • "Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." Hebrews 13:16 ESV
  • "For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in. I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me." Matthew 25:35-36 MEV
  • "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles." Psalm 34:17 MEV
  • "He calms the storm and stills the waves." Psalm 7:29 TLB


  • "The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic God's giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves." - St. Nicholas of Myra
  • "You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you." - John Bunyan
  • "We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone." - Ronald Reagan
  • "Your children need your presence more than your presents." - Jesse Jackson
  • "Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference." - Max Lucado

We'd Love to Know:

Which verse or quote most reminds you of St. Nicholas's story?


Activity Suggestions

We've arranged a variety of literacy focused St. Nicholas Day activities according to grade level bands. If you want a printable version of this, get it on our Teachers Pay Teachers page (free!). Also, regardless of the grade you teach, be sure to check out the "Would You Rather..." and "Family Challenge" sections. Let's get these learners into the spirit of giving!

Our Nephew's Suggestion:

Make a list!

And don't forget to check it twice. I wonder what the actual St. Nicholas would think about the lists kids make today.

Our Suggestions: 

Preschool to First Grade

Second and Third Grade

Fourth to Sixth Grade

  • Complete the "K" and "W" columns of a KWL chart (printable from Student Handouts) about St. Nicholas.
  • Research St. Nicholas: one-page printable that describes the evolution of Santa, a two-page printable that relates several stories of St. Nick and includes celebration ideas, or the St. Nicholas Center's "Who is St. Nicholas?" online article.
  • Record interesting facts in the "L" column.
  • Use your KWL chart to make a "Fact or Fiction" flipbook, slide show, flash cards, or quiz to take home and use on your parents. 

"Would You Rather..." 

  • Find gold in your shoes or toys in your socks?
  • Eat an orange or candy cane?
  • Sail on a pirate ship or serve a king?
If you would like three "Would You Rather...?" questions for every December day, download this Wolfe Stew PowerPoint.

Family Challenge

Discuss St. Nicholas' spirit of giving. How is it the same and different from the Santa Claus we know today? Choose a way to give back to the community around you and, as a family, follow through on your plan. If desired, use this printable to write down your giving goals from St. Nicholas Center.

We'd Love to Know:

If you celebrate St. Nicholas Day. If so, how?

We’re excited to share one more day with you and wish you JOY for Today and HOPE for Tomorrow. Come back next week for... Worldwide Candle Lighting Day!

Fighting the Good Fight with You,

Red stew bowl with steam rising from top. Wolfe Stew crawled on front.

Find even more JOY for Today in our monthly calendars, holiday, and seasonal posts.


Popular posts from this blog

World Turtle Day | JOY for Today

Proverbs 31: Week 14 | The Wolfe Notes

October 2023 | Calendars