Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Who is the Real St. Nick?
It's amazing how we have certain traditions that we hold so dear in our culture, and have such long and deep roots in our lives, yet we rarely wonder where they came from. Like, it's Christmas morning 2012, and many a children have jumped out of bed to see what Santa has left them. I am 41 years old, and I can still remember that magical feeling of seeing what that jolly Old St. Nick had left. But now that the magic has somewhat faded, I am left wondering where that tradition comes from? Ever been curious of how Santa Claus got his start? Well, just in case you are, let me share with you what I found!
Nicholas was born in an area near what is now Turkey some time about 300 years after Jesus lived. Christianity as a religion was young, fledgling and persecuted in most of the Roman Empire at the time. The area where Nicholas lived did know of Jesus, His salvation and His anticipated return thanks to the missionary work of the Apostle Paul. Nicholas was born to wealthy parents who believed in what they had been taught about Jesus, and had given their lives to Him. Nicholas lost his parents at a fairly young age, but the teaching of Christ they had planted deep in his heart were already taking root and changing his life. He was particularly captured by Jesus' words when He spoke to a rich you ruler in Matthew chapter 19 who inquired of Him of how to have eternal life. Jesus told the young man of great wealth to go and sell all that he had and give to the poor. The bible says that the young man went away sorrowful, because he didn't want to give up his wealth. Certainly we know that salvation comes from faith in Jesus, and not from works, but Jesus was testing his heart and his response revealed that he had already given his heart to the treasures that he owned.
Well, Nicholas' heart belonged somewhere else. He dedicated his life and his wealth to serving God by serving those in need. He spent his life spreading the love of Jesus and helping the needy, sick and suffering. And even though he suffered himself because of his faith by enduring ridicule and even imprisonment, he never gave up on the mission God had for his life. He later became the Bishop of Myra, and after his death was recognized as a saint by the church, hence St. Nicholas. Many countries still celebrate St. Nicholas day on December 6th.
Of course as the world usually tries to do with the things of God, over the years the legend of St. Nicholas was blended with the lore of other non-christian figures. St. Nicholas was merged with the traditional, European holiday figure of Sinterklass, from which we get Santa Claus. He was fabled to visit homes to leave gifts for good children. So now the reindeer sleigh, red suit and bag full of gifts have come to overshadow the life dedicated to Christ which was St. Nicholas.
If the real St. Nicholas had visited your home last night, he probably would have left you a reminder of how he tried to model his life after the giver of the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ. A Son who also was born of great wealth, had all the riches stored up in glory, but instead forsook them that He might come to this world and give to those who are needy, sick and suffering. So now if anyone ever asks, who is the real St. Nick, you can tell them that he was a child of God, who believed in the Son of God, and dedicated His life to serving the people of God.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!