I decided to check up a little bit on the background of this living legend and I found that his original name was Nicolas. (*Most of this information about Saint Nicholas comes from Max Lucado, “A Christmas Candle” devotional.)
He was not born at the North Pole but in what is now modern day Turkey about A.D. 280. He was orphaned at age 9 when his parents died of a plague.
You might have thought Santa majored in toy-making and advertising when he was in college, but actually he studied Greek philosophy and doctrine. In the early 4th century he was named Bishop of Myra and held the post until his death in 343 A.D.
History recognizes him as a saint, but in the third century he was a troublemaker. He was twice thrown in jail; once by the Emporer Diocletian for religious reasons, and another time for slugging a fellow bishop during a fiery debate. (SO MUCH FOR WHOSE BEEN NAUGHTY AND WHO’S BEEN NICE.)
But old Nick is best known for the kindness he showed to a neighbor who was unable to support three daughters or provide a dowry so they could get married. Old Saint Nicolas 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. Later, he did the same for the other two daughters.
That story, added to down thru the years, became the Santa legend. The gift grew from a handful of coins to a bag of coins. Instead of dropping them through a window, he dropped them down the chimney. And rather than landing on the floor, the bags of coins landed in the girl’s stockings which were hung on the hearth to dry.
The original Nicolas, as Bishop of Myra, wore ecclesiastical robes and a mitered hat. He is known to have been slim, with a dark beard and serious personality. By 1300 he was wearing a white beard. By the 1800’s he was depicted with a rotund belly and an ever-present basket of food over his arm. Soon came the black boots, a red cape, and a cherry stocking on his head. In 1866 he was small and gnomish, but by 1930 he was a robust 6 footer with rosy cheeks and a Coca-Cola in his hand.
Someone has said that Santa reflects the desires of people all over the world.
- He is a composite of what we really want.
- A friend who will travel great distances to bring us good gifts.
- A sage, who though he knows our every act, rewards the good and forgets the bad.
- He’s a friend of children who never gets sick and never grows old.
- He’s a father-figure who lets you sit on his lap and tell him your deepest desires.
Yet, in spite of his goodness, in spite of all the wonderful gifts he brings, Santa comes up short as the answer to all our needs. Santa can not give us the solution to most of our problems. For one thing, he doesn’t hang around long enough. The day after Christmas – HE’S GONE.
When the credit card bills start rolling in come February, Santa’s no longer in his chair at the mall. What happens if you get sick or need a miracle in July? Unless you can find his secret North Pole hide-a-way, you’re out of luck.
As far as legends go, Santa is ok. Yet, I submit to you that we need more than a Santa. We need a Savior! That is what Jesus came to be. “John 3: 16-17) Have you met the Savior this morning? Is He your redeemer and your God? For the gift that really matters by pass Santa, and give your heart to the Savior.
Have a great week!