Summary: If Santa Claus, a 4th Century Christian, were here with us today, what might he tell us about how to celebrate Christmas?
Sermons for Christmas CCCH 12-14-97
A. The legend of jolly old St. Nick, or Santa Claus, began with a real person: St. Nicholas, a Christian who lived many centuries ago.
B. Very little is known about St. Nicholas with great certainty, except that during the early part of the 4th Century he was the bishop of the church of Myra, a city on the southern coast of Asia Minor.
Myra is the seaport in Acts 27:5 where a centurion placed Paul on board an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy, and eventually wrecked near the Island of Malta. Myra was part of what is now modern day Turkey.
Tradition says that St. Nicholas was put in prison because of his faith during the persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor, Diocletian. He was later released when Constantine the Great became emperor and proclaimed Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire and accepting this faith for himself.
C. Because of his reputation for generosity and compassion St. Nicholas has come to exemplify the spirit of giving at Christmas time.
His transformation into Santa Claus began in Germany among Protestant churches where he was called Kriss Kringle, derived from Christkindle, which means Christ child. Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam introduced the legend to America. They knew of him as Sint Nikolaas or Sinter Klaas, which soon became known here as Santa Claus. Our modern day conception of Santa and they myth surrounding him with red suit, reindeer, sleigh and portly size originated in the 1800’s here in America through the stories of Washington Irving, the cartoons of Thomas Nast and the 1822 poem by Clement Moore, which begins, “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”
PREMISE: If Santa Claus were here with us today, what might he tell us about how to celebrate Christmas?
He might tell us to examine a few things:
I. TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR FOCUS
A. There are really two holidays that are celebrated on December 25: Christmas and X-mas.
That’s also the title of a story by C.S. Lewis, “Exmas and Christmas.” His story takes place on the island of Niatrib, which is Britain spelled backwards. Every winter the Niatribians celebrated a festival they called Exmas.
They packed the marketplaces in all sorts of weather to get ready for the celebration. They looked for cards and gifts for their relatives and friends. But as the days counted on, the preparation began to take its toll. Many of the people grew pale and weary. They looked as though they were under tremendous strain. Some even missed the day altogether because they were so exhausted, or they had gotten sick from overeating and drinking.
But there was another holiday held on the same days as Exmas. The Niatribians called it Christmas. It was a holy day, but very difficult to keep because Exmas was so distracting.
1. Nearly everyone in the United States celebrates X-mas.
2. Christmas is difficult to keep holy because X-mas is so distracting.
And because both holidays fall on the same date, people often confuse them.
Remember the holiday classic by Dr. Suess, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas?” In his story, a nasty creature called the Grinch steals all the presents, decorations and food in the little town of Whoville on Christmas Eve. By doing this he thought he could prevent Christmas from coming.
But sitting alone with all the things he stole up on top of a hill overlooking the town, a strange thing happened. Christmas still came. Christmas still came without the presents, the decorations and the food. Just like many other people, the Grinch was confused. He didn’t steal Christmas, he stole X-mas.
B. It takes a conscientious and disciplined effort by Christians at this time of year to keep the focus on the primary event of history – the coming of our Savior into the world.
You won’t find him prominently displayed amidst all the holiday décor in many of the stores you visit during the next few days. The focus of that holiday isn’t on Jesus.
The focus of the holiday that we see most obviously is something that would probably grieve the Santa of old – the historical Saint Nicholas. I think if he were here today. . .
C. Santa might point us to Isaiah 7:14:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.”
TRANSITION: It’s just a guess, but if he were here today I think Santa might also say to us:
II. TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR FAITH
A. Some people work pretty hard at making Santa seem real to their children so that they will believe in him.