SANTA OR SATAN?
When a person receives the Lord his eyes are opened to a lot of things. This is especially true when it comes to Christmas. One of the questioned icons of Christmas is the person of Santa Claus because many feel he takes away the focus from Christ. In fact when I was a new believer I heard a man say that all you have to do is rearrange the letters in Santa and you get Satan.
The story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara, Turkey. His wealthy and devout parents died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas divested his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and eventually was made Bishop of Myra. Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need (often giving in secret), his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th.
Throughout the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds. One popular story tells of a poor man who had three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home thus providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold were tossed through an open window, landing in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.
The Christian figure of Saint Nicholas replaced or incorporated various pagan gift-giving figures of different cultures. The saint was called Sankt Nikolaus in Germany and Sinterklaas in Holland. In these countries Nicholas was sometimes said to ride through the sky on a horse. You can see how the legend easily morphed from St. Nicholas into Santa Claus!
Though there is much folklore surrounding Nicholas, what we do know is that he was a giver. God is a giver: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . . (John 3:16). The Bible recognizes the gift of giving. . . . he who gives, with liberality . . . (Rom 12:8). And we are to give secretly, as unto the Lord and not as to man (Mat 6:1-4). Santa? Satan? Saint? Sounds like Nick was just a regular guy who loved to give to others. And that’s something we all can do. Our good works may not be legendary but God sees all and rewards openly!