Nicholas lived from about 270 to 343 and served as the Bishop of Myra. Many legends grew up around him, with a great many surrounding his wonderful love of the needy and especially children. He saw the face of Christ in these innocent ones, and most of the traditions involved his sharing his blessings with the young as he shared his love of Jesus. Gift giving was involved, but so was gentle love and compassion. The image of Nicholas above, as a Latin Rite bishop, is inaccurate, since he would have been of the Eastern Church Tradition, but it led to the image we have of Saint Nick as the jolly old man dressed in red and being a model of generous love.
Many parishes in these early days of Advent share the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time with their youngsters who are preparing for their Sacraments of Initiation. I shared in wonderful celebrations these past two days - on Monday at my former parish of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton where the kids were excited at seeing me again (even though I did not wear red, with my size and the gray beard, I probably reminded them that Santa was coming soon) - and on Tuesday at Our Lady of Grace in Greensburg. Both were beautiful experiences of the gentle love and mercy of the Lord in our lives - for the youngsters, for their parents and families, and for the priests present. I had an awesome thing happen yesterday as well. A young lady needed some encouragement before receiving the Sacrament (she was nervous). As her mom came to me to encourage her daughter she pointed out that she knew me. She said that I had baptized her when I was an Associate at Saint John the Baptist in Scottdale and then married her and her husband when I was pastor at the same parish. And now I had the honor of hearing her child's confession. It is a small world, and our past moments of ministry often bring us continued blessings.
There are many icons of Advent, many faces of Christ that bring us closer to him. Look for them in your lives.