Ironic, isn’t it that so much time, money, and energy is spent perpetuating a lie in celebration of the Truth?

Christmas — the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son given unto us, the One upon whose shoulders the government rests, and of whose kingdom there shall be no end; the One whose name is called:  Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Savior of the World, The Way, The Truth, The Life.   

How awesome is the story of the King of Kings, a Babe born not in a palace, but in a manger, clothed not in silks and satin, but wrapped in swaddling clothes; unnoticed by anyone except His virgin mother and her husband, and yet, all of creation heralded his birth, with angels breaking through the heavens, manifesting their angelic glory to the lowly shepherds, not to kings and queens and earthly potentates.

Even the stars in the heavens could not contain themselves but made way for one brighter than all the others, one with a divine purpose, announcing to all who had eyes to see that something of heavenly import had happened on earth, that God had visited His people with Peace, Good Will toward men.  The Wonder of it al!  God had come to earth and tabernacled among men, had deigned to clothe himself with human flesh to make a Way for us, to reconcile us to Himself, to give His very life in the struggle against the Father of Lies, and to win it all on Calvary at such great cost — the lifeblood of God, Himself.

And at Christmas time, the time chosen for the celebration of this wondrous advent, do we focus on the awesomeness of the Gift from God, or do we listen again to the Father of Lies exerting his subtlety, duping mankind in the form of a jolly old elf with godlike attributes and supernatural powers?  Why this slavish insistence on perpetuating a lie when the truth is wonderful enough?

No, Virginia, there is no Santa Clause.  But there was once a man named Nicholas, born in Lycia, in Asia Minor, who became bishop of the city of Myra.  He was a steadfast believer in Jesus Christ, and many miracles of healing were credited to him.  He worked wonders in converting unbelievers to Christianity and was even imprisoned for a time for his faith.  He was one of the youngest and kindest bishops of the Roman Catholic Church and was known for his generous gifts given anonymously to children in need.

The practice of celebrating Saint Nicholas’s feast day was brought to America by the Dutch settlers.  Eventually, the English borrowed the legends and festivities surrounding the kindly saint, and in their attempts to pronounce the Dutch name for St. Nicholas, English-speaking children called him Santa Claus.  Only American children say Santa Clause, and even in America during the first half of the 1800s, the saint was still known as Saint Nicholas or Saint Nick.  In 1822 Clement C. Moore wrote for his own children the poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which begins with the wonderfully familiar, “Twas the night before Christmas. . . .”

Nicholas’s deeds of kindness and generosity, his miraculous healings, and works of faith were born out of his relationship with Jesus Christ.  They are indeed the Spirit of Christ alive on the Earth today, as all deeds of kindness, love, and compassion, of mercy and grace, are.  But it is the Spirit of Jesus, the Christ, the living God, which must be worshiped and glorified, not the spirit of a man long dead and buried.  For the Lord declares in Isaiah, “I am the Lord:  that is my name, and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praises to graven images.”

How dangerous it is to delight in deceiving our children generation after generation with the pretense of a mythical creature who gives them rewards or punishments depending on whether they’ve been “naughty or nice.”  Mothers and fathers threaten their unruly children with Santa Clause and bribe them with Santa Clause and force them to sit upon some stranger’s lap in shopping malls for the sake of capturing for posterity a picture of little Johnny or Sue with Santa.  Have we lost our minds?

How wonderful it would be to re-tell year after year the heartwarming story of the real Saint Nicholas and others like him who, because of their relationship with the Christ were able to do such kind and generous things.  Perhaps, to begin a collection of stories of real people inspired by the Christ, to do magnificent works of goodness, maybe even anonymously, and to add to that collection year after year.  It would not be so very hard to emulate the Spirit of Christ motivating others to do good, to love justice, to do mercy, to find those in need all around us and give of our abundance, to give our children real heroes . . . and maybe even the opportunity to be heroes themselves.  We must be very careful to give honor to whom honor is due, to stand for truth and integrity ourselves, and to give praise to those who do acts of goodness — Lest we forget our God . . . and perish.

Tricia H. Smith (c) 11/29/2020