Summary: Far from being a dangerous distraction from the real meaning of Christmas, believe it or not, Santa Claus can actually be saved! The true story of Saint Nicholas reveals that he was a saint, a scholar, and shepherd. We can learn a lot form Santa this Chri
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 12/4/2011
Well, it’s time to start getting into that Christmas spirit again!
Thanksgiving is behind us. Black Friday has come and gone. It’s almost impossible not to think about Christmas. Trees have been going up in living rooms all around town. Lights are being hung along rooftops and railings (sometimes at the risk of life and limb). Stores are stocking up on all things Christmas related. Some people, my wife being one of them, get frustrated with how early department stores and shopping centers start putting out their Christmas décor and promotions.
This year, Halloween was barely over when Wal-Mart cleared out all the costumes and candy in order to make room for Christmas stuff. It use to bother me seeing Christmas goods in October, but now-a-days I don’t know, maybe it’s just that I’ve mellowed out, but I don’t mind it at all. Christmas is the best time of the year; why not start revving up for it as early as possible?
I don’t know what Christmas was like in your house growing up, but for me Christmas wasn’t really about Christ. I grew up in a Christian home, but I don’t remember ever going to a Christmas Eve church service or reading the Nativity story or anything like that around Christmas time. The church we grew up in actually discouraged people from celebrating Jesus’ birthday at Christmas because they thought it was unbiblical. We were taught that it was a pagan holiday. Of course, we were still encouraged to enjoy stories about Santa Claus and reindeer, and hid presents under the Christmas tree; just so long as we didn’t drag Jesus into it.
So that’s pretty much what we did. I remember my sister and me writing our Christmas wish lists and mailing them to the North Pole. I recall setting out a plate full of cookies and a glass of milk for Santa on Christmas Eve. I’ll never forget sitting at the top of the stairs with my sister, whispering to each other and hoping that our parents didn’t catch us out of bed, as we waited to catch a glimpse of that jolly fat man in the red suit!
Of course, today I’ve come to realize that Jesus really is the reason for the season—that Christians ought to celebrate the birth of Jesus and do everything we can to keep Christ in Christmas. When Ashley and I started having our own kids we made the decision that Christmas was going to be about Christ and that we wouldn’t fill our kids’ heads with fairytales about toy-making elves or flying reindeer. That doesn’t, however, mean that Santa gets left out of Christmas.
Far from being a dangerous distraction from the real meaning of Christmas, believe it or not, even Santa can be saved. As you probably already know, Santa Claus is an alias for Saint Nicholas—or good old St. Nick. While the myths and legends that have cropped up around Saint Nicholas have come completely untethered from history, the truth is—Saint Nicholas was a real person, a Christian, who lived in the third century, roughly two hundred years after the death of Jesus.
Nick was born to a wealthy family in Patara, Lycia (an ancient city in modern day Turkey). Sadly, a plague swept through the region and claimed the lives of his parents when Nicholas was still a young man. Thankfully, his mom and dad left behind a legacy of faith. Heartbroken but hopeful, Nicholas clung to Jesus as his savior and the Holy Spirit as his comforter, and he went on to become a true hero of the faith.
To be fair, the details of Nicholas’ life are sketchy. Dozens of stories have been told of his life and eventually hundreds of churches would be named after him, but very little of his life was documented until a couple hundred years after his death, which means that most of what know was passed on through oral tradition. It’s difficult to discern exactly where the facts end and where the fantasy begins. Many of the St. Nicholas stories seem to be truth interwoven with embellishments. Nevertheless, history does give us the broad brush strokes of his life, which paints a clear picture of the kind of person Saint Nicholas really was.
So what do we know and what can we learn from the life of Saint Nicholas?
First, we know—as his name and title imply—that Nicholas was a saint.
• A SAINT
Now let me define exactly what I mean by saint. The Bible teaches that everyone who is born of the Spirit—everyone who accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior—is a saint. For instance, in Psalm 30, a song David wrote for the dedication of the temple, it says, “Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name” (Psalm 30:4 ESV). So David is referring to everyone gathered at the temple to worship God as his saints. In the New Testament, the Bible continues to use the word saint to refer to all believers. In fact, Paul often addressed many of his letters like this: “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Romans 1:7 ESV).