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Saint Nicholas Takes a Knee

A reprint of a treasured work of art hangs just inside my office entrance.  It is Paolo Veronese’s painting of The Consecration of Saint Nicholas.  I beheld the original in The National Gallery, London, England, while on renewal leave last quadrenniaum. According to the British National Gallery the story behind the painting goes something like this:  “On the eve of the election of the archbishop of Myra in Lycia (Asia Minor) in the 4th century AD, it was revealed to one of the bishops that a young man called Nicholas had been divinely chosen. When Saint Nicholas presented himself at the cathedral the following day he was elected and immediately installed as archbishop. The story is told in The Golden Legend. Veronese has shown the moment of Nicholas's recognition - or subsequent consecration - with an angel above bringing his bishop's stole, crozier and mitre. The saint humbly obeys.” This great Saint took care of the poor.  In fact the backstory behind stockings hung over the fire involves Bishop qua Saint Nicholas putting gold balls in the stockings hung over the fire to dry at night by poor young women.  The gold provided money for a dowry.  If there was no dowry, they (the young women) would be sold into slavery.  Thus the gifts protects the impoverished from slavery.  There are a variety of other tales about St. Nicholas giving gifts to care for the poor and needy.  His whole ministry was about helping the hungry, homeless, and hurting all in the name of and at the behest of Christ. The picture hangs by my office door as a personal reminder to me to kneel in obedience to Christ and rise in service to Christ living the great commandment (love God and love neighbor) and the great commission (go and make disciples).  I gaze upon it and am remind to kneel before the Lord; to render the ultimate in obedience and obeisance. This is what the wise men did.  They took a knee before Christ in paying homage.  This is what a great bishop named Nicholas did.  It is what we must do.  Christmas calls us to take a knee before the wonder and glory of God on earth in the person of a baby named Jesus.  At home, we have a simple plaster sculpture of St. Nicholas kneeing before the baby Jesus in the cradle.  At my best this is how I approach Christmas.  Will you join me in taking a knee for the newborn Savior? “O Come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.  Come and behold him, born the King of angels; O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord”  (“O Come, All ye Faithful” Hymn No. 234, The United Methodist Hymnal).