For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
For centuries he’s been called by Sinterklaas, Papa Noel or Father Christmas. But to most reading this he is Santa Claus.
His original name was Nicholas, which means victorious. He was born in AD 280 in what is now Turkey. He was orphaned when his parents died of a plague. Many think he probably majored in toy making, however the original Nicholas studied Christian doctrine.
He was honored by the church by being named Bishop of Myra in the early fourth century. History recognized him as a saint, but in the third century he was a bit of a troublemaker and jailed twice for religious reasons. So much for being naughty or nice! LOL
Old Nick was best known for the kindness he showed to a poor neighbor. Old Saint Nicholas slipped up to the house by night and dropped a handful of gold coins through the window so the eldest daughter could afford to get married. He repeated this act on two other nights for the other two daughters. This story was the seed that grew to become the Santa legend.
The gift grew from a handful of coins to bags of coins. And rather than land on the floor, the bags of coins landed in the girls’ stockings, which were hanging on the hearth to dry.
Santa’s wardrobe and personality have undergone transformations as well. By 1300 he was wearing a white beard. By the 1800s he was depicted with a rotund belly. In 1866 he was small but by 1930 he was robust with rosy cheeks.
Santa reflects the desires of people all over the world. With the centuries he has become the culmination of what we need in a hero. He’s the personification of our passions, the expression of our yearnings, and the fulfillment of our desires: A friend who cares enough to travel a long way against all odds to bring gifts to good people. A friend of children, who never gets sick and never grows old. A father who lets you sit on his lap and share your deepest desires.
Santa is ultimately the betrayal of our meager expectations. What?? You see, Santa can’t provide what we really need. He’s only around once a year. Though he gives much, he doesn’t take away much. He doesn’t take away the burden of mistakes, or the anxiety of demands. He’s kind and cute, but when it comes to healing hurts, don’t go to Santa.
I’m not a Scrooge. I’m simply making the point that over the centuries we’ve created many heroes. From King Arthur to Kennedy; Lincoln to Lindbergh; Socrates to Santa to Superman. We give it the best we can, every benefit of every doubt, every supernatural strength, and for a brief shining moment we have the hero we need. But then the truth leaks and we realize that the heroes, as noble as they may have been, were conceived in the same society us.
Except One. There was One who, though He had the appearance of a man, had the origin of God. There was One who, while wearing the face of a Jew, had the image of the Creator. At His touch blind beggars saw. At His command crippled legs walked. At His embrace empty lives filled with vision.
He fed thousands with one basket. He stilled a storm with one command. He raised the dead with one proclamation. He changed lives with one request.
What man can’t do, God does. Hallelujah! So, when it comes to goodies, candy, and reindeer with red noses, go to the North Pole. But when it comes to eternity, forgiveness, purpose, and truth, go to the manger. Kneel with the shepherds. Worship the God who dared to do what man dared not dream.