Tuesday, 6 December 2016 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened again to the words of the Scripture from the prophet Isaiah and from the Gospel according to St. Matthew about the coming of hope for mankind, and how God Who loves us all His children and His people, will not abandon us in the darkness, but indeed He will seek us all who have been lost to Him, like a shepherd looking for his lost sheep, even if there is only one who was lost.

That is the reason why Jesus our Lord came into the world, which we celebrate in Christmas. Many of us celebrate Christmas with joy and revelry, with dancing and partying, but without truly understanding what is it that we are really rejoicing about. And many of us are celebrating like how the rest of the world celebrate Christmas, with joy and happiness in the family, in the exchanging of gifts and presents, in our feasts and in our sumptuous dinner parties, but let us ask ourselves, have we put Christ at the centre of our celebrations?

If our answer to this question is no, that means those who have not put Christ at the centre of our joy and celebration this Christmas have not celebrated Christmas in the right way. It is easy indeed for us to fall into the temptation of this world, which constantly bombards us with many persuasions and temptations, and misleading us into seeking for a materialistic and Christ-less Christmas rather than a Christmas joy centred in Christ.

Perhaps in this, we can be inspired by the example of a holy servant of God, whose feast we celebrate on this day, namely St. Nicholas of Myra, a Bishop of a small diocese in what is now Turkey, in the region of Asia Minor in the early years of tolerance of Christianity in the Roman Empire. This same St. Nicholas of Myra is what the secular world had adapted and became the legend of Santa Claus, which image is certainly ubiquitous especially as Christmas approaches.

Many of us would know of Santa Claus as a bearded old man who is kind and who like to give many gifts to young children at Christmas. And many of our youths recognise Santa Claus, and are indeed waiting for him to give them presents. We hang red and white coloured socks at the fireplace or at the window hoping that Santa Claus would come and put some gifts inside of them. And indeed, everyone always look forward to our Christmas gifts and presents, but let us all ask ourselves, are we really not missing something from all of that?

St. Nicholas of Myra was indeed a kind and loving bishop, who always showed tender love, mercy and care for his flock, and he liked to give gifts to children who came to him for his blessings. And it was from this that it was likely the twisted legend of Santa Claus was born, one that was sadly not focusing on another aspect of St. Nicholas of Myra that we all really need to know.

For all of his loving and kindly ways, St. Nicholas of Myra is an ardent defender of the true faith, which happened at that time came under great threat from the heretical ways of Arianism, as taught by the false prophet and heretic Arius, which unfortunately divided the Church in many places and swayed countless souls away from the true way leading to the Lord and His salvation. Arius preached that Jesus our Lord is merely Man and not God, while the truth is that He is both Man and God at the same time.

Many people were swayed by the false teachings of Arius, even among the priests and bishops. But St. Nicholas of Myra were among those bishops who refused to listen to the falsehoods of Arianism and fought hard to restore the true faith to the many people who had been lost to the false and heretical ways. At the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in the year 325 AD, convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine to resolve the issue of Arianism and the true teaching of the Church about the divinity of Christ, it was told that St. Nicholas of Myra even punched the heretic Arius at the face.

Eventually Arianism was condemned by the decision of the Ecumenical Council, and defeated after many years of long struggle. Yet all of us must not overlook and forget the role of St. Nicholas of Myra in trying to defend the true faith from all these aberration and heresies. He acted as a true shepherd, a good shepherd modelled after the Lord Himself, the Good Shepherd, who are concerned about the well-being of his flock, especially those who have been lost.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, there are two things which all of us must understand and appreciate, so that our preparation in this Advent will be fruitful, and our Christmas celebration will be meaningful. Firstly, we need to return Christ to Christmas, putting Him back at the centre of our effort and our joy in Christmas. Whenever we plan for Christmas, let us all remember that we rejoice because of Him, because of the love He has shown us.

And thus it brings us to the second point we need to take note of, that we have to appreciate how God wants us to be redeemed and be forgiven our sins, for as what St. Nicholas of Myra had shown, the fate of our souls is indeed very important. Since if we fell into damnation and are lost from God, what await us is nothing but despair and eternal regret. The Lord has sent His servants to help and guide us through the turbulent world, so that we will be able to persevere through and avoid falling into temptation.

Therefore, let us all as Christians renew our faith and renew our effort to help one another to prepare ourselves, by deepening our relationships with God, and by seeking repentance and forgiveness for our sins. Let us all make use of this time of Advent to prepare ourselves, not just preparing how we will celebrate Christmas, but also prepare ourselves in our hearts and minds, that we will be ready to welcome the Lord with joy at Christmas, and share this joy with one another. May the Lord bless us and keep us in His grace. Amen.

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