Let’s Put Saint Nicholas Back Into Christmas!
We have heard a lot about taking “Santa out of Christmas” and getting back to the “true meaning of Christmas.” I say, ‘Let’s put ‘Christ back into Christ-mas’ AND, ‘Let’s put ‘Santa’ back into ‘Santa Claus’! The fellow we know as a “jolly old elf” is historically a Christian leader known for his courage and generosity. (Saint) Nicholas was a 4th Century Bishop (regional leader) in Myra (what is now in SW Turkey). You can actually go to visit the church dedicated to his memory and it seems that the oldest part of the structure goes back to his time.
What was life like for Nick and the saints of his day? Tough! Dangerous! The church was a growing force in the Roman world – yes, the Roman Emperor still called the shots. And Diocletian authorized a crackdown on Christians (early 300s). Everybody had to do their “emperor worship” or else! This was before the breakthrough with Emperor Constantine that made the Christian faith legal. Followers of Jesus were being thrown into jail and were subject to beatings, persecution, and even execution. Nicholas was among the jailbirds. Yes, Virginia, there really is a Saint Nicholas and he’s was a jailbird!
Nicholas was known for his courage, for facing the local governor in defence of other Jesus followers. He was also known for his generosity and he cared for hundreds of widows in their need. Because of his generosity and his flare in ministry, many stories were told, retold, and embellished, turning him into something of a “superhero” or “supersaint.” Not all the stories were true but the real life Nicholas was a man who followed Jesus and who is worthy of honour and of our emulation.
Here was a man who stood against the power structures that oppressed the followers of Christ. Here was a man who made a positive impact on his society. He cared for the poor and destitute, the widow and the orphan. Nicholas made the love of Christ known to his time and people. He had a missionary vision, a martyr’s courage, and a shepherd’s heart.
He couldn’t circle the globe in a single night but he was compelling in delivering the message of Christ’s peace and light – Nicholas He didn’t know who was naughty or nice but he proclaimed forgiveness of sins and new life in God for the stigmatized naughty and the self-styled nice. He was willing to stand up for Jesus and pay the price. That’s the kind of Saint Nicholas we need in Christmas. That’s the spirit of Christmas that continues to light a candle in the dark and starts a fire in the hearts of those lost in the cold.
I am glad that in a time when it is easy to be swept along and to compromise there are those who, like the real Nicholas, are willing to make make a difference. We need a few ‘Nicks in our time!’
May God give you a great Christmas blessing! Merry Christmas to All and to All, Be God’s Light!