will soon be upon us. That being the case, I thought it might be fun
and enlightening to share the story of the real Saint Nicholas. Courtesy
of Pastor John Eich, what follows is the story of the real Nicholas,
along with Pastor Eich’s personal views in regard to the celebration of
"Nicholas was born in AD 270 in the seacoast
town of Patara in Asia Minor, which is present day Turkey. His wealthy
parents died in a plague while he was little. As he grew older, he
traveled and enjoyed using his money to help people. When he was nearly
50 he decided to become a pastor. This is when his story really begins.
doctors wear green, nurses wear white, and football players wear pads,
jerseys, and helmets. Ministers at the time of Nicholas wore a uniform
too. They wore a long red coat to remind people that the blood of Christ
cleanses us from all sin. The stole around the collar was a symbol of
the yoke of Jesus, a simple reminder we are all his servants. The hat
wasn’t a stocking cap, but a miter symbolizing the helmet of salvation.
22 years Nicholas watched over his church. He loved having children sit
on his lap while he told them stories about Jesus. One of his other
joys was gift giving. Once a man in his church went bankrupt. In order
to pay his bills, the man was going to sell his three beautiful
daughters into slavery, a common practice in those days. When Nicholas
heard about it, he collected an offering and in the dead of night tossed
the bag of gold into an open window in the man’s house. In other cases,
if the windows or doors were locked, he would drop the gift down the
chimney, which often had stockings hanging nearby to dry from washing.
died in AD 342 on Dec. 6. By then he was well known in the area. Many
Christians began to follow his example in Christ and gave gifts to the
poor. It became popular to hold a feast and worship service in his
memory on Dec. 6. People would dress up like him, hold children on their
laps, and give them gifts.
Nicholas soon became a patron
saint, like a sports hero. In Holland the Dutch pronounced his name as
Saint Nicklaus. As they came to America and spoke quickly, to the
untrained ear it sounded like they were saying "Santa Claus." The
Germans, because of the Lutheran Reformation, focused their attention on
the Christ child. In German the baby Jesus is called the "Krist
Kindle." Again spoken quickly this would sound like "Kris Kringle,"
which later was applied to the Santa Claus legend because Christmas was
celebrated near the time of St. Nicholas’ day.
Puritans, however, made it illegal to mention any saint’s name. During
the 1600s it was forbidden to light a candle, exchange a gift, or sing
carols. Still, people will celebrate what they want. If we don’t teach
them how to sing and feast and pretend to the glory of God, then the
world will teach them how to do it without glorifying God. That’s what
happened to St. Nicholas.
In 1820 a dentist named Clement
Moore wrote a poem for his sick child to cheer him up. Called "Twas the
night before Christmas," the poem told children that St. Nicholas lived
at the North Pole, drove a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, and had a
tummy that shook like a bowl full of jelly. (Actually he was probably
thin from fasting.) Forty years later Thomas Nast drew a cartoon picture
showing St. Nicholas with a long white beard (probably true), rosy
cheeks (probably not), dressed in red (true), and with a sack of toys on
his back (probably not, since the people needed money and food more).
should be aware that fostering a belief in the Santa Claus of today may
backfire later. A child looks to parents to furnish everything -- food,
comfort, courage, and truth. When a parent says, "Yes, there really is a
Santa Claus, and his reindeer can really fly," he is no longer playing a
game. That parent is lending his personal authority as a parent to the
myth, giving it the ring of truth.
What happens later
to a parent’s credibility when the child finds out that the story isn’t
true? Maybe the other things a parent has said about safety, moral
values, right or wrong aren’t true either.
If you once
believed in a man who knew what you were doing, who had amazing
abilities, and who gave you nice things, and he turned out to be a fake,
why should you believe in another man who knows what you are doing, has
amazing abilities, gives you nice things -- Jesus Christ?
you get burned once, why get burned the second time? Wouldn’t it be
better to be honest with our children right from the start, and teach
them the difference between truth and make-believe?
people love Santa Claus so much that they forget about Jesus. Some
churches burn the present day Santa Claus in effigy. Both extremes are
too much. It’s better to remember the real Nicholas, who can serve as an
example of how to really keep Christmas.
Don’t think "Look what the world is coming to." Rather think "Look who’s coming into the world!"
little girl was once asked, "What is a saint?" Thinking of the heroes
of faith who are pictured in stained glass windows she answered, "A
saint is someone who lets the light in." That’s how we best perhaps can
use the myths about Santa Claus. Let’s use them to let the "light in,"
Jesus Christ the light of the world. Let’s keep Santa Claus always
kneeling at the manger of his Savior and ours. Merry CHRISTmas!"
you, Pastor Eich, for enlightening us in regard to the origin of Santa
Claus. And let me take this opportunity to wish each of you a joyous
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