This Isn’t Christmas!!! (Part 2)

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This Isn’t Christmas!!! (Part 2)

Matthew 1:18-25

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.”

Many of us have heard this story dozens of time either on television, radio and especially at church but some of us still miss the point. What is the real meaning of Christmas? What has nothing to do with Christmas? Why do we do what we do during this holiday season? Join us as we explore the meaning of Christmas in our new series “This Isn’t Christmas.”

II. Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas)

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Before we begin to address the personage of this Christmas character, let’s talk about the history of Santa Claus.

“The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. One of the best known of the St. Nicholas stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married. Over the course of many years, Nicholas’s popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married. By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland.

St. Nicholas made his first inroads into American popular culture towards the end of the 18th century. In December 1773, and again in 1774, a New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families had gathered to honor the anniversary of his death.

The name Santa Claus evolved from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas). In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society’s annual meeting. The background of the engraving contains now-familiar Santa images including stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace. In 1809, Washington Irving helped to popularize the Sinter Klaas stories when he referred to St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book, The History of New York. As his prominence grew, Sinter Klaas was described as everything from a “rascal” with a blue three-cornered hat, red waistcoat, and yellow stockings to a man wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a “huge pair of Flemish trunk hose.”

Gift-giving, mainly centered around children, has been an important part of the Christmas celebration since the holiday’s rejuvenation in the early 19th century. Stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, and by the 1840s, newspapers were creating separate sections for holiday advertisements, which often featured images of the newly-popular Santa Claus. In 1841, thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life-size Santa Claus model. It was only a matter of time before stores began to attract children, and their parents, with the lure of a peek at a “live” Santa Claus. In the early 1890s, the Salvation Army needed money to pay for the free Christmas meals they provided to needy families. They began dressing up unemployed men in Santa Claus suits and sending them into the streets of New York to solicit donations. Those familiar Salvation Army Santas have been ringing bells on the street corners of American cities ever since.

In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister, wrote a long Christmas poem for his three daughters entitled “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.” Moore’s poem, which he was initially hesitant to publish due to the frivolous nature of its subject, is largely responsible for our modern image of Santa Claus as a “right jolly old elf” with a portly figure and the supernatural ability to ascend a chimney with a mere nod of his head! Although some of Moore’s imagery was probably borrowed from other sources, his poem helped popularize the now-familiar image of a Santa Claus who flew from house to house on Christmas Eve–in “a miniature sleigh” led by eight flying reindeer–leaving presents for deserving children. “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” created a new and immediately popular American icon. In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew on Moore’s poem to create the first likeness that matches our modern image of Santa Claus. His cartoon, which appeared in Harper’s Weekly, depicted Santa as a rotund, cheerful man with a full, white beard, holding a sack laden with toys for lucky children. It is Nast who gave Santa his bright red suit trimmed with white fur, North Pole workshop, elves, and his wife, Mrs. Claus” 

This article was published at History.com

So we see that our image of this fictional character has derived from a hodgepodge of sources. The evolution of The Santa Claus has had many additions from folk lure and tradition. However, as we contrast this embellished character with the truth of the scriptures we see many inconsistencies and troubling conclusions.

  1. He Is Not Real – True that St. Nicholas was a real person but he, St. Nick, isn’t the alter ego of The Santa Claus that we now identify with today. St. Nick was a good person but there is no tangible evidence that supports his title of a magical man that travels the entire planet giving gifts to children. The fact of the matter is that this person and the character that we know today are two different personalities. 
  2. He Has Been Deified – Most people today have consciously and unconsciously elevated Santa Claus to the level of deity. How? Let’s look at what makes people refer to Santa Claus as deity:

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town Lyrics

You better watch out, You better not cry, Better not pout, I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town.

He’s making a list, And checking it twice; He’s gonna find out, Who’s naughty or nice, Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you’re sleeping, He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, So be good for goodness sake!

You better watch out, You better not cry, Better not pout, I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you’re sleeping, He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, So be good for everyone!

He’s making a list, And checking it twice; He’s gonna find out, Who’s naughty or nice, Santa Claus is coming to town.

  1. “He’s making a list, And checking it twice; He’s gonna find out, Who’s naughty or nice, “ – Many people believe that this is a reference to The Lambs Book Of Life. Revelation 20:12 “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”
  2. “He sees you when you’re sleeping, He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, So be good for goodness sake!” – Many people believe that this is a reference to God’s Omniscience. Psalms 139:1-3 “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.” This text shows the all knowing and seeing nature of God.
  3. “You better watch out, You better not cry, Better not pout, I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town.” – Many people believe that this is a reference to God’s Omnipotence & Omnipresence. Isaiah 40:28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.” This text shows the all powerful nature of God. Many people regard this as Santa Claus’ ability to warp space and time in order to transverse across the planet without time and space being an issue. Also that he can see everywhere all at once. 

3. He Has The Hearts & Minds Of Our Children – This perhaps is the most disturbing of all of the aforementioned points. Why? To answer this let’s look at what Jesus said about the children. Mark 10:13-16 “And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” So we see that God holds a special place in His heart for children. Could it be that the children have a tender heart and is susceptible to being deceived? 

This is key to understanding why The Santa Claus is so bad. We tell our children about a magical creature that brings holiday joy and gives them presents because they have been good. Furthermore, we tell them that Santa Claus can see their every move and whether or not they have been good or no. We tell them that they will get a lump of coal if they are bad but come on, who has ever got a lump of coal. All of this goes into the child’s imagination while they are young and impressionable. Later, as they become older, we recant all that we have told them about Santa Claus and other imaginary creatures. How do you think that they will respond when we tell them about God? Many of us parents will be seen as liars and people that perpetuate fraud. 

So how do we address this issue? I would start out by reading today’s text! I would allow the children to draw their own conclusions, from the bible, whether or not popular beliefs are true. Telling them outright, will make you the bad guy but allowing someone else to tell them will make you look like you’re totally clueless. The bible says in John 17:17
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” The only thing that will purify your children’s hearts is the truth found in God’s word. In tomorrow’s devotional we will talk about the holiday embellishments and their purpose. Join us again as we address real life issues with biblical answers on Worship With Willie.

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