GOOD NEWS: SANTA IS REAL, & HE IS A CHRISTIAN!
A couple years ago a friend sent me a text. He’d just seen a Christmas display with a Santa Claus bowing down to baby Jesus. He isn’t a Christian, but he was offended. He texted a slew of profanities about how sacrilegious the scene was, and we had a good laugh. Santa bowing to Jesus?! How far are people going to take it? What’s next, Ralphie bringing baby Jesus a BB gun? Mariah Carey as the Virgin Mary? Tim Allen, Chevy Chase, and Will Ferrell as the three wise men?
Well, it turns out the scene isn’t so sacrilegious after all. It turns out Santa was actually a Christian. Not just a Christian, but he was like a super star Christian. He fasted two times a week, according to church history. Many say that miraculous things happened in response to Santa’s prayers. He was also well-known as a “secret gift-giver,” which is where his legend began.
Santa even served on the Council of Nicaea, where the orthodox doctrines of the Christian church were founded. Allegedly Santa got really mad at another bishop for proposing that Jesus wasn’t God. So mad that he smacked him across the face!
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t “Santa” pimp-slapping bishops, but you get where I’m going with this. Last year I asked my Facebook friends if it was ethical to tell your kids Santa is real. If you ever want to start up a really controversial Facebook post, don’t talk about politics or religion. Go straight for the throat and talk about Santa. You will not believe how fired up people get about Santa being real, and how important it is for kids to believe it.
Well, yes and no. Santa was real. Saint Nicholas of Myra is a revered saint of the Christian tradition. He lived a highly respectable life and died on December 6th, 343 A.D. He did give gifts a lot, and he was incredibly noble, and he did bow to Jesus. I have no idea where the elves and reindeer came from. Maybe someone was telling their kids the story of Saint Nicholas and started geeking out on Lord of the Rings?
The tradition of Saint Nicholas bears repeating through our stories and through our gift-giving. The modern day version of Santa gets a little distorted compared to the real man, but I hope my kids will come to know and imitate the real Santa. Mark Driscoll recently wrote a great article about what he tells his kids about Santa. He encourages Christian parents to “redeem Santa” and not to freak out too much if culture distorts the story a bit (or a lot.)
Keep the “Christ” in Christmas? Definitely. While we’re at it, let’s keep Saint Nick in there too.