December 6 is when St. Nicholas is commemorated within Christianity, as this is the day on which he died in the year 346. St. Nicholas has become associated with many noble activities over the centuries, the most familiar of which is gift-giving. He is the model for the contemporary Santa Claus that children love.
But it is St. Nicholas’ reputation as a rescuer of travelers that can speak to all, not merely the young at heart. There are numerous stories and legends of him saving seafarers from calamity and death.
It is no great stretch of the imagination to conceive of one’s earthly life as a voyage in a fragile ship upon a tumultuous sea. Often the compass seems to have stopped working, guiding stars are not visible, fog and mist obscure the horizon and monsters from the deep have raised slithering tentacles over the bulwark in search of someone to devour.
Or so it seems.
Where are we going and how are we to get there? These are life’s fundamental questions, and only the very wise or the very ignorant think they know the answers. Yet when the deck of our boat pitches at the mercy of a raging storm, even issues of direction and navigation lose importance. Staying afloat becomes everything.
So the image of St. Nicholas helping weary sailors is comforting, even for the seemingly landlocked.
For we are all somewhere “at sea,” trying to steer our small craft through great difficulties to a safe harbor.
And if we believe someone cares enough to reach out and help us, our journey becomes more hopeful.