If Saint Nicholas Were Here

if saint nicholas were here
For my eyes have seen your salvation, Luke 2:30 (NIV)

On Christmas Eve there will be parents who will help their children set out milk and cookies for Santa. The children will then be bundled up in bed and told that while they’re sleeping, Santa will come down the chimney to fill the stockings hanging from the mantle. On Christmas Day the children will bound out of bed, rush into the living room, discover the empty glass of milk, and eyes shining, look at each other and say, “Santa’s come!” Rushing to the mantle, they’ll haul down the overstuffed stockings and happily tear into the presents . . . only if they’ve been nice and not naughty!

If St. Nicholas were here he’d certainly be amazed, maybe even appalled at the things we say and do in his name. Nicholas, the original “Santa,” was a 4th Century bishop in the city of Myra, a port on the Mediterranean, in present day southern Turkey. A generous and compassionate man who was known for his love for children, he struggled to keep the early church alive in the face of persecution. For several years he was imprisoned and suffered for his faith during the reign of the Roman emperor, Diocletian. Nicholas was a Jesus man. If he were here today he’d probably struggle with the odd ways in which we weave together the Saviour and the sleigh.

I confess, we do the Father Christmas (Santa Claus) thing in the Murray home. But we try to do it in a way that keeps the main thing the main thing. When our children were younger, we tucked them into their beds (now they tuck us into bed!) on Christmas Eve saying, “Get a good night’s sleep so we can enjoy celebrating Christ’s birthday,” or words to that effect. When they woke up the next morning they’d get to open the gifts in their stockings, and when that was done we’d share a Bible reading and thank God for the birth of His Son. Later in the day the Murray/Jarvis annual Christmas play (the Story of Christ’s birth) would be creatively presented as the parents egged the children on.

On whom is the spotlight shining in your home? Is Christmas centred on Santa, on yourself, on family, on friends, or on Christ? I ask, not in a judgmental way, but as one who sometimes feels like I’m not managing to fully get the Christmas celebrations focussed on Christ. So here’s a reminder for me as much as it is for you: Christmas is about God loving us so much that He “sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Jesus is the reason for the season. While Santa, the festivities, the singing of carols, and the boxes under the tree are a great addition to Christmas, they’re just that, they’re extras. The essence of Christmas is Christ. As St. Nicholas might say, if he were alive today, “Christmas is about the grace of God – the birth of the Saviour Son.”

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