This is our special Christmas episode.
Christmas is a wonderful time of year where family comes together to celebrate. What we’re celebrating has evolved over the years though, and we’ll talk more about that next week, but this week I wanted to talk about Santa Claus. I know where some people think I might be going with this, but you might be surprised.
(Excerpt taken from http://www.kcm.org/real-help/life-work/learn/the-real-santa-claus) Each December, images of Santa Claus are everywhere. We see visions of a large man in a red suit with a long white beard and rosy cheeks. But the real Santa Claus, or St. Nicholas as he is known, was not some marketing invention. He was a godly man whose giving spirit became an example of Christ’s love.
From what is known about St. Nicholas, he lived during the third century in Turkey. He was from a loving Christian family who taught him the importance of loving God and honoring the Lord with his giving spirit. At 19, he joined the priesthood. His uncle, a bishop, prophesied that Nicholas would lead and encourage people. He also prophesied that Nicholas would become a bishop and lead a spiritually fulfilling and devout life. In fact, Nicholas did help the poor, became a bishop and lived with a desire to honor God in everything he did.
He was known to spend entire nights tirelessly studying God’s Word just so he could bring fresh insight and revelation to the people in his congregation. He was known for reaching out to those in need, praying, fasting and relying on God’s Word completely.
The true story of St. Nicholas is a beautiful picture of the giving that Christmas is all about.(End)
It’s true that when we think about Santa today we get an image that was heavily influenced by marketing and the mythos of Santa is an amalgamation of characteristics from several mythological characters. What’s hidden here in the story of Santa though is a great opportunity for children to see, experience, and practice: faith, hope, and love.
Faith being when you believe something without any evidence because you have experience to back it up, and hope a confident expectation that you hold in your heart about something good you are convinced is going to happen. Love is a whole other creature all together that requires you to put the wants, needs, and feelings of others above your own.
As the tradition goes a man sneaks into your house to leave presents for good children. Your kids will never actually see him because he only comes when they are asleep so they just have to take your word for it that he is going to come. The only reason they do is because they have experience in previous years finding presents on Christmas morning. Herein they see, experience, and practice faith. A skill they will need later in life when asked to have faith in a God that they will never see with their own two eyes. They are told that if they are good then Santa will bring them presents, and if they are bad then they will get coal instead. Herein they see, experience, and practice hope. A skill they will need later in life when what they do see with their eyes is sickness, despair, and death. Finally, when they wake up on Christmas morning whether they were good or bad there’s that present for them under the tree. Herein they see, and experience love. A skill they will definitely need later in life so that they may begin practicing love, a talent that though practiced all your life still leaves room for improvement.
The man responsible for the popularity of the Santa that we know, Nicholas of Myra was born on March 15th in the year 270. When the bishops were called together to decide what texts would be included in the bible Nicholas was among them. As the story goes there was a movement to reject or alter the Gospel of John to deny the divinity of Jesus. Arius, the leader of this movement believed that Jesus was created by God as a lesser being subordinate to God wholly rejecting the Trinitarian nature of God. At one point the debate became so heated that Nicholas crossed the room and punched Arius in the face.
That is the nature of Nicholas that I love the most, a man willing to defend the honor of Christ. It’s with that same passion that Nicholas carried through life that led to the stories told of him: creating gifts for children that wouldn’t normally have them around winter time, throwing modest bags of gold into the chimneys of young maidens for them to use as dowries saving them from lives as unmarried spinsters, and even resurrecting three boys who had been kidnapped, murdered, and prepared to serve as food to guests at the inn by the innkeeper who was looking to save some money on the bill from the butcher.
Lastly, I’d like to read you a poem that helps capture a good glimpse of the focus that we should have this time of year. Beyond Santa, beyond Christmas trees, sparkly lights, and Christmas carols. Kind of help refocus us.
1 Corinthians 13 Christmas-Style
©By Sharon Jaynes
If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family - I'm just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family - I'm just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family - It profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn't envy another home that has coordinated
Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of your way.
Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can't.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love never fails. Video games will break; pearl necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love will endure.
If you’d like a copy of that poem, or to find out more about its author, Sharon Jaynes, you can do so at her website www.sharonjaynes.com
Until next time…