The strongest reason I have heard for why Christians choose to include Santa in their Christmas celebration, is the historic Saint Nicholas. While this will probably touch some nerves, I must ask if anyone out there thinks that the way we celebrate Santa today really honors St. Nicholas? Would he be pleased with what we have turned him into? He started the tradition of giving to those in need to glorify Christ, and people have turned it into worshiping him and writing him long lists of their wants. Quite frankly, if I were him, I would not be happy.
Do you think that the goal of Saint Nicholas was to take the focus away from Jesus, and put it onto himself? Do you think that he would be pleased with us reversing his teachings and having people send him lists of the things he desired? This is the man who sold all that he had and gave it to the poor. He gave EVERYTHING he had, how used and abused would he have felt if someone had sent him a letter of their wants. Don’t you think that he had wants? I’m sure he did, but he laid it all aside to serve God and give to others. The Santa tradition has taken his love and generosity and commercialized it. I kind of tend to think that if he were still living, it might possibly be reason enough for him to at the very least stop giving, and possibly even regret starting the whole thing at all.
But what do we know about the real Saint Nicolas? We know he was from the town that was biblically known as Smyrna. In Revelation 2 Jesus said that He knew them and while they were poor, they were rich. Smyrna was a poor town financially, but they were rich spiritually. I picture Saint Nicholas like the rich young ruler that Jesus addressed in Luke 18:18-30, only Nicholas actually followed through and sold all that he had. Saint Nicholas probably understood Proverbs 10:22 better than anyone we know. He understood that it wasn’t material items that he needed, but the blessing of God. He probably wanted to be counted among the poor of this earth, and rich in his faith and an heir of the kingdom of heaven (James 2:5). He was following Christ’s lead by becoming poor by choice, so that he could give to others (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Saint Nicholas knew what Spiritual riches were. They don’t tarnish, break, or decay. They can’t be lost or stolen. Which is the exact opposite of the earthly riches, which we are told in Proverbs 23:5 can grow wings and be gone. I can see Saint Nicholas echoing Paul’s words in Philippians 3:7-11
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
Saint Nicholas, didn't do anything to glorify himself, but to bring glory to God. How opposite has the legend of him become. The Santa that we teach kids about never sold all that he had to give to the poor. In fact, he owns an entire town located at the North Pole. He doesn’t care if someone is rich or poor, for he focuses on good or bad. He has no desire to share the love of Christ with others, or for anything spiritual. He only cares about toys for kids… the good kids. His entire life revolves around toys. He doesn’t care if you believe in Christ, only that you believe in him. I can’t imagine looking Saint Nicholas in the eyes and telling him that we remember him with Santa. Can you?
Do I think that remembering Saint Nicholas at this time of the year is wrong? Not at all, my kids know about him, but we keep our focus on Christ. There is one family in my church that participate in a Saint Nicholas party each year, that I think is FANTASTIC! They choose a family that has less than they, and then buy them tons of food, presents and such. The night of Christmas Eve they have a party, wrap presents, sing songs, and just enjoy themselves. Afterwards, once it is dark out they drive over to the selected families house and doorbell ditch the presents onto their porch. They never tell who they are; they just do it to bless others. What a wonderful way to remember Saint Nicholas. This is exactly the way I would want to be remembered if I were him. Not by having people write me lists and lie about who I am or what I stand for. Not lying to people about where I live, or what my house looks like.
I should also add that Saint Nicholas day is actually December 6th. So, if I were to celebrate Saint Nicholas, I would probably want to do so on that day, instead of removing the focus from the day we celebrate my Saviors birth… However, lots of Catholic Saints have days, and we don’t celebrate any others, so we probably won’t celebrate St. Nicolas either.
What about you? Do you do something special to remember the REAL Saint Nicholas?