Joseph’s Role in the Nativity — St. Nicholas’ Love Revealed
STATE COLLEGE, PA — Although the skies were gray today, the Holy Trinity Vacation Bible School (VBS) kids were shining bright as the second day of VBS concluded. Tuesday’s lessons focused on two important men of the Church: Joseph and St. Nicholas.
Today the students learned that although the Scriptures do not tell us much about Joseph they do show his greatness in God’s eyes. They also discussed that Joseph came from the royal lineage of King David.
When discussing St. Nicholas, the students learned that through his example God teaches us not to look for praise, or to do things with receiving praise in mind. Rather, do them because you love God and other people. Additionally, the VBSers discussed that when Jesus speaks about God rewarding us, He means that God responds to our love with His Love, just as people respond to others’ love with their own love.
The Star of Bethlehem
In the Orthodox Church, the Star of Bethlehem is not interpreted as an astronomical event, but rather as a supernatural occurrence, whereby an angel was sent by God to lead the Magi to the Christ Child (see how this is illustrated in the Nativity Troparion!).
The Star of Bethlehem is often depicted in Orthodox icons not as golden, but as a dark aureola (a circle of light), a semicircle at the top of the icon, indicating the Uncreated Light of Divine Grace, with a ray pointing to “the place where the young child lay” (Matt. 2:9). Sometimes the faint image of an angel is drawn inside the aureola.
This week the students will be creating their own star to remind them of the light which to Magi followed to find Christ.
St. Nicholas — Nearly Everyone’s Patron Saint
In addition to children, sailors, and prisoners, many others have laid claim to St. Nicholas as patron. This list includes bakers, bankers, pirates, businessmen, teachers, shoe shiners, and candle makers (and there are many, many more!). Why did some of these groups become identified with the beloved saint? Though usually traced to one of the stories or legends, some are primarily geographical, such as the cloth trade which was strong in parts of Europe and where many churches were named to St. Nicholas.
Some unlikely groups, like thieves, are in his patronage–not because he helps them steal, but because he helps them repent and change. One of the most commonly seen, though not necessarily understood, is the pawnbrokers’ symbol of three gold balls. Pawnbrokers and bankers both regarded St. Nicholas as their patron and took his gold balls as their own symbol to represent redeeming something of value as St. Nicholas had used the three bags of gold to redeem the lives of three young women.