St. Nicholas and Christmas

The enemy of Jesus is always out and about to kill, steal and destroy.  One of his greatest deceptions is that he isn’t even here….however, today I want to address him as the thief and trying to steal Christmas from us by way of distraction and the belief of Santa Claus.

Many people do not even realize that Santa Claus – or St. Nicholas, was a real person, he was a great giver to the poor and preached the Gospel. Nicholas of Myra was a wonderful man who believed in God and had given his life to further the Gospel of Christ.
Read the following excerpt from an article by Kenneth Copeland.

“For years, Christians have debated about the right way and time to celebrate religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Many are concerned because the dates and some of the traditions in current use may have been influenced by pagan religions.

As Christians, we need to be aware of these things. At the same time, we need to remember that God is the One Who instituted the concept of holidays. He instructed Israel to have feasts and special memorial celebrations in the Old Testament, knowing it is beneficial for men to continually remember and praise God for all the good things He has done for them.

Satan is the one who imitates and twists whatever God originally created or instituted. So if anyone is doing the imitating in regard to the celebrating of holidays like Christmas, it is the ungodly, not Christians. We should make no apologies for wanting to commemorate and thank God for the greatest gift He ever gave us-His precious Son, Jesus.

Instructions for celebrating the life of Jesus are not specified in the New Testament, except for the instructions given regarding Communion in 1 Corinthians 11:23-34. But there are certain principles we can follow. Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” And Colossians 2:16-17 makes it quite clear that we are not to let anyone else judge how we choose to celebrate a holy day or special religious festival: “Therefore let none sit in judgment on you in matters of food and drink, or with regard to a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath. Such [things] are only the shadow of things that are to come, and they have only a symbolic value. But the reality-the substance, the solid fact of what is foreshadowed, the body of it-belongs to Christ” (The Amplified Bible).

Regardless of the day designated as a holiday by the world or the Church, as believers we should give honor to Jesus every day, in everything we do. As long as we are celebrating the reality of the One Who is the real reason for the celebrations, we are not condemned whether we have a Christmas tree, or not, or whether others are celebrating at the same time for reasons other than to glorify God.

The following reprint of an article from the Believer’s Voice of Victory magazine is an example of how Christians should not be robbed of a wonderful testimony that the world has radically changed for its own purposes. It’s the story of the real St. Nicholas.” – KC

St. Nicholas: The Man Who Celebrated Jesus – (originally in BVOV Magazine)
St. Nicholas should be an inspiration to us all. He was a godly man whose reputation for giving to people caused him to be a revered example of what compassion and giving are all about. He was not a jolly fat man who climbed down chimneys, and he didn’t have flying reindeer.

Stories of his life-a life full of Christian beliefs and values-are the real background for today’s mythical Santa Claus. So much of what Nicholas was-and what Santa Claus has become-has been distorted by Satan. What has been done to weaken and contort the testimony of this godly man is really pathetic.

The real story of Christmas is the story of Jesus-God’s precious gift to us. Our Heavenly Father is the real Gift-Giver. Nicholas grew up knowing the real Gift-Giver.

Nicholas and his parents lived in Turkey in the third century and were Christians. Nicholas’ parents had prayed and asked God for a child, much as Abraham and Sarah had done. From the time Nicholas was born in about A.D. 280, they considered him a gift from God. Diligently, they taught their young son devotion to God and to be very generous to the poor. Although they both died when Nicholas was in his teens, their heritage of living for God and giving followed Nicholas.

Ordained as a young teenager, Nicholas entered the priesthood at age 19. His uncle, the bishop who ordained him, prophesied that Nicholas would offer guidance and consolation to many people, that he would eventually become a bishop, and that he would live a life of enlightenment. Eventually he did become the bishop of a small, coastal village, and his influence spread into many nations.

Many accounts have been written about the life of Nicholas. It was said that he would spend all night studying God’s Word to bring it to the people. He was known for helping the poor, for praying, fasting, and standing steadfast in faith and goodness. Many miracles were brought about through his prayers. Included among the accounts of his ministry is the report of twin brothers who were raised from the dead. It was written that one could hardly keep count of the virtue and goodness he spread around him.

One particular story of Nicholas’ goodness is the reason many pictures show him with three golden spheres. These represent three bags of gold that he gave to a poor man so his three daughters could be married. The man was so poor his daughters had no dowries, and he was so desperate he was planning to sell them into what we would call white slavery.

To keep that from happening, Nicholas threw a bag of gold pieces through the man’s window in the night so no one would know who had done it. He wanted God to get the credit for it. Because of this, the eldest daughter had a dowry. She was no longer an outcast and could be married.

Not long after that, Nicholas did the same thing for the second daughter, saving her from a familiar fate. When he did it for the third daughter, the father caught him. Nicholas made the father swear an oath that he would never reveal who was responsible for those gifts as long as Nicholas was alive.

When Nicholas died on December 6, A.D. 343, he is said to have quoted Psalm 11 with his last breath: “In the Lord I put my trust.”

In the Greek language, the name Nicholas means “victorious” or “hero of the people”, and he did indeed become a very popular figure in the centuries that followed his death. Stories of Nicholas spread throughout Greece and into Russia. He became the popular patron saint of Russians, who called him “Nikolai, the wonderworker”.

In 1087, the remains of St Nicholas’ grave were transported from Turkey to Bari, Italy, where a basilica was built in his honor. Soon after, his popularity spread throughout Italy and across Western Europe. December 6, the day of his death, became St. Nicholas Day on the Roman Catholic calendar, and the custom of gift-giving on December 6 began in France and spread across all of Europe.

You can see similarities between the better characteristics of the Santa Claus character, who gives gifts at night-not to be seen by anyone, and St. Nicholas’ gold-piece throwing. But how did the story of such a man of God get turned into a story of an elf workshop at the North Pole?

With the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s, the worshiping of the saints was denounced, and St. Nicholas Day was no longer observed in England.

In Holland and Belgium, the traditional day of December 6 was still celebrated. There, Sinter Klaas rode through the streets on a white horse, rewarding good children with treats and toys and giving rods or switches to bad children. In Germany, the saint was referred to as “Nicholas dressed in fur” and also left sweets for good children and rods for the bad ones.

Christopher Columbus brought the first celebration of St. Nicholas Day to the New World when he landed in the West Indies on December 6, 1492, and named the harbor Port of St. Nicholas, in honor of the patron saint of sailors.

All of these traditions blended with immigration to the New World. As the English and Dutch came and intermarried, Father Christmas and Sinter Klaas blended into one figure. Dutch Americans eventually adopted December 25 as their day of celebration, and by the end of the Civil War, St. Nicholas the bishop was generally known in the United States as Santa Claus.

The poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” further shaped the American Santa. Another popular poem, originally titled “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” was penned by New York professor Clement Moore in the 1800s and created a word picture portraying a round-bellied Santa with a huge pack on his back. Picking up on this image, cartoonist Thomas Nast added a North Pole toy workshop in his cartoons for Harper’s Weekly magazine. In 1925, a large corporation ran an advertising campaign of Santa Claus further defining him as a large man with a red and white fur suit, black boots, and a long, flowing beard closest depiction of our present-day Santa.

The American Santa Claus, like America itself, came from a melting pot of Old World cultures and characters. He is the Dutch Sinter Klaas and the Lutheran Kris Kringle who bring gifts to children. His red garment is lined with fur like the German version of Nicholas, and he spreads merriment and cheer like Father Christmas. And a team of reindeer, borrowed from a Russian legend, accompanies Santa Claus on his journey through the night.

The tragic part in all this is how the devil has contorted the man and the ministry of St. Nicholas- the man who had such fullness of God that even the dead were raised! He was popular because of his reputation of honor, his godly ways, and his giving nature. But it’s just like the devil to twist the ministry of such a powerful man until it is hidden in the tales of a little fat-bellied, pipe-smoking pie eater.

The story of the true St. Nicholas is a beautiful picture of the giving that Christmas is really about- instead of the fretting and getting that the American Santa now represents. St. Nicholas represents the giving heart of our Heavenly Father, Who doesn’t give switches and rods but Who always gives only good gifts.

The greatest gift of all is the gift of Jesus Christ to us from God the Father. Jesus is our hope, redemption and victory. He is our advocate with the Father, our blood-covenant Friend Who will never leave nor forsake us. In Him, we have the joy of living a heavenly life on earth.

He is the meaning of Christmas. “Christ mass” means “anointing celebration.” It’s the celebration of “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power…” It’s the celebration of how the anointed Jesus “…went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil…” (Acts 10:38). It’s the story of our triumphant Savior-Jesus, the Christ-the King of kings and Lord of lords!     Now, that’s a Merry Christmas!

I realize the article was a little long, but it is so good, that I just couldn’t bear to leave anything out!

See, I learned of the REAL St. Nicholas when my boys were about 4 and 7 years old.  I was thrilled!  Thrilled that  I could incorporate the REAL meaning of Christmas, yet let them have fun with Santa!  Here is what I did:  We sat down and I told them I wanted to tell them about the REAL Santa Claus.  I told how he was born to missionary parents and that he loved Jesus with all his heart.  How he saved  a young woman from being sold into slavery for her father’s debts by “waiting until night and throwing a bag of gold into an open window” , which actually enabled the family to live for an entire year.  That to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, since we couldn’t give a gift to Jesus, we would give gifts to each other because Jesus loved us that much.  I said then he died.  (Brent, wide eyed said he did???)  I said yes.  And now when we see Santa Claus at the mall, it is a reminder of the man who loved Jesus and wants us to celebrate His birthday by giving gifts to each other – to remind us that the greatest gift was Jesus Himself.

I then said – as for Rudolph and the North Pole and elves, etc., that is all cartoon fun stuff and we can play and have fun with that!  They loved it!  This way, I kept the meaning of Christmas true in their hearts and didn’t have to fabricate a thing.

We still went to the mall and sat on Santa’s lap and watched Rudolph and all the fun stuff kids like to do – it was ok because we walked in truth.

Truth…..Truth brings peace.  Truth brings understanding.  I love Christmas and I love every reason we have Christmas – to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  At our home, Santa bows his knee to Jesus – it was the way he lived his life, and it is how he would want his memory to be honored.

So, Merry Christmas!  Enjoy your children!  Take them to see Santa Claus and tell them what Santa represents to us – a reminder that it is Jesus’ Birthday and we give gifts to each other in HIS honor.  What a mighty God we serve! For unto us a son is given!  Unto us a Child is born! Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will toward men!

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