From the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s calendar of commemorations for December 6:
Of the many saints commemorated by the Christian Church, Nicholas (d. A.D. 342) is one of the best known. Very little is known historically of him, although there was a church of Saint Nicholas in Constantinople as early as the sixth century. Research has affirmed that there was a bishop by the name of Nicholas in the city of Myra in Lycia (part of Turkey today) in the fourth century. From that coastal location, legends about Nicholas have traveled throughout time and space. He is associated with charitable giving in many countries around the world and is portrayed as the rescuer of sailors, the protector of children, and the friend of people in distress or need. In commemoration of “Sinte Klaas” (Dutch for Saint Nicholas, in English “Santa Claus”), December 6 is a day for giving and receiving gifts in many parts of Europe.
Benjamin Britten’s cantata Saint Nicolas was written for the 1948 centenary of Lancing College in Sussex (an independent secondary boarding school on the south coast of England). As Paul Spicer writes,
The cantata portrays the life of the fourth-century Bishop of Myra in a work of great poetry and sensitivity. It was conceived and composed with semi-amateur performance in mind and the technical demands of the choral and orchestral writing are appropriately straightforward. The audience also gets to join in two well-known hymns, “All people that on earth do dwell” and “God moves in a mysterious way.”
For Saint Nicholas’ day, enjoy this performance of the cantata by tenor Robert Tear, the Choir of Kings’ College Cambridge and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, all conducted by Sir David Willcocks:
You can find Eric Crozier’s complete libretto and further program notes for Saint Nicolas here. An excerpt of the 6th movement, “Nicolas from Prison”:
O man! The world is set for you as for a king!
Paradise is yours in loveliness.
The stars shine down for you, for you the angels sing,
Yet you prefer your wilderness.
You hug the rack of self,
Embrace the lash of sin,
Pour your treasures out to bribe distress.
You build your temples fair without and foul within:
You cultivate your wilderness.
Yet Christ is yours. Yours!
For you He lived and died.
God in mercy gave His son to bless you all,
To bring you life,
And Him you crucified
To desecrate your wilderness.
Turn away from sin! Ah!
Bow down your hard and stubborn hearts!
Confess, yourselves to Him in penitence
And humbly vow your lives to Him, to holiness.
— RIck Krueger