Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:11

One of my favorite scenes in the movie, "Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is where Christmas returns to Narnia. After 100 years of being "always winter with no Christmas" Father Christmas (the Anglican St. Nicholas) returns bearing gifts for Lucy (healing), Susan (trust) and Peter (tools of protection). When asked "I thought there was no Christmas in Narnia?Father Christmas answers, "The hope that you have brought (your majesties) has started to weaken the Witch's powers."

I agree that Christmas has taken a giant leap toward commercialism leading many people away from the true meaning of Christmas, as the coming of Jesus, God's son. But the original Saint Nicholas was a fourth century Christian bishop who lavished gifts on needy children on Jesus' birthday. He not only believed in the same Christ of the Christmas story, but he also showed God's compassion, mercy, grace and love to the children who had nothing.

We've always included St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) in our family Christmas traditions. We didn't allow him to take center stage, nor did we state that Santa was the reason for the season. We did allow the legend to take form by telling the story of St. Nicholas bringing gifts to children on Christmas Eve, how he placed them in their stockings and (we added) left one special gift besides.

However, we balanced all that with the reading of Jesus' birth from the Bible; celebrating Jesus' birthday by giving gifts and a birthday cake for Jesus.

Can a Christian family celebrate Christmas with Santa Claus? I believe they can. I believe a parent can use the story of St. Nicholas to infuse the Christmas message: that gifts are given because of the hope Jesus brought into the world by his birth.

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