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A Little Song of St. Nicholas
(Good with Children's Sermons near Dec. 6)

by The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 

I have often used the Sunday in Advent nearest St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6) to "rescue" the poor saint from modern secularity. I have collected several little statues of St. Nicholas -- they are out in abundance, even in all the "X-Marts," by late October anymore -- to use as a visual aid for telling about the story of this ancient 4th century Bishop of Myra (now Demre, Turkey). It takes very little research to discover many legends (and few facts unfortunately) about St. Nicholas, but even the legends would seem to point to the fact of a man of great faith, joyfully giving out of that faith, often in secret and just as often to children in need. Of course the point to be drawn for every children's sermon on St. Nicholas is first that he was Christian, second that his giving was following the example of Christ, and third that his focus was on giving, not getting, a good point for children to hear in this "season of giving" that too often translates into this "season of getting."

 

Some time back, I was contacted by the talented Minister of Music at First Lutheran, Mansfield, Ohio (Timothy Guenther), and asked if I knew of any little song about St. Nicholas that might be used with the pastor's children sermon. Unfortunately I didn't. But a quick little web search netted this at an Orthodox web site, St. Nicholas the Wonder Worker:

 

The Apolytikion (Hymn) of St. Nicholas

An example of the Faith and a life of humility, as a teacher of abstinence you did inspire and lead your flock, and through the truthfulness of your deeds were exalted by greatness, through your humility uplifting all and by poverty gaining wealth. Father and hierarch Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God that our souls be saved.

The text certainly carries the sound of antiquity with it, although there is no date with it at the site. So does the original Greek and other translations at the same website, with one reference to the Sarum Rite Missal (11th c. English gathering of Church tradition at Salisbury). My guess is that this hymn predates the Sarum use by a long time.

At any rate, I set the hymn to poetry, taking a few liberties in relating to the legends and pointing St. Nicholas and giving in the way of the manger, given the suggested context of a children's sermon. I commend it to your use, having both children and congregation sing at the end of the children's sermon -- tune Puer nobis, "On Jordan's Banks" or any other Long Meter (LM) tune of your choosing:

 

Song of St. Nicholas

St. Nich'las was a man of faith
and truth in God whom we adore.
As bishop, he inspired his flock,
and did great things for Christ our Lord.

 

In secret, Nich'las helped the poor,
the children meek and all in need.
He gave to us examples for
our giving gifts as godly deeds.

 

St. Nich'las sang the Christmas song,
"The Manger Babe was born for you."
Sing praise to God, oh one and all;
join Nich'las' voice in all you do.

 

--from Ancient Greek "Apolytikion (Hymn) of St. Nicholas"
poetic version by T.L. Weitzel

revised Dec. 2001

 

For a great deal more on St. Nicholas, including history, songs, hymns and graphics, see www.stnicholascenter.org.