Who was the REAL St. Nicholas??

I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas… from my own childhood to raising my boys, it was truly the most wonderful time of the year, and still is! We always decorated their little trees together, made cookies, made up dances to Christmas songs, watched Christmas shows and had such fun! We loved decorating the house, going to their Christmas programs, going to grandma’s house… and the joy on Christmas morning of opening presents.

Before we opened gifts, the first thing we always did was sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. And on Christmas Eve, my dad would always read the Christmas story to the grandkids (as did my grandpa to me and my siblings) Because my mom had been a Sunday School teacher for years, she had some child costumes and we let our kids act out the story as grandpa read it. It was truly memorable.

However, there is a way to have Santa Claus and Jesus and not betray the true meaning of Christmas!

Read the following excerpt from an article by Dr. Stephen L. Swisher on the real Nicholas (who later was named Saint Nicholas):

“Because of his gentleness, compas­sion and love, and the fact that he always carried a bag filled with candy and gifts whenever he ventured out in public, scores of children followed him around. Due to Nicholas’ status with local citizens, Roman officials often sought his advice in matters of state. The influence he gained allowed him to work for the underprivileged and powerless, and in so doing he rose to the position of cardinal.

Yet what ultimately made him a legend was his love of children. As he grew older, he used more and more of his funds to purchase gifts for children. Giving toys or candy to little ones, Nicholas told stories of Jesus and the gift He had given through His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection. Then Nicholas would add, “Jesus loves little children, and He loves you.” Through these gifts, many began to understand the full measure of their salvation. Nicholas’ acts of service were so great that when he died, others picked up where he left off. Over time, the legend of Nicholas of Myra grew, and hundreds of churches were named after him.

…Nicholas’ parents were committed to their faith in deeds, not just words. They gave to missionary work and helped feed the poor. They also took Nicholas to church and enrolled him in theology and history classes where he learned to fully embrace the two greatest commandments in the Bible: to love God with all your heart (Matthew 22:37) and to love your neighbor as yourself (verse 39). These verses had a profound impact on Nicholas. But the act that truly distinguished him began with the failure of a family friend’s business. The man and his three daughters had lost everything. In desperation, the man negotiated with local brothel owners to sell his oldest daughter into slavery to provide for the younger two.

When Nicholas learned of this, he sprang into action. The night before the girl was to be sold; Nicholas went to their home, waited for the lights to go out and tossed a bag of gold through an open window, vanishing before he could be seen. This random act of kindness was not to be a one-time act of charity.

The money lasted the family a year. When it ran out Nicholas returned with another bag of gold, but this time the father caught him. Wiping away tears the man asked Nicholas, “Why did you give us these gifts?”

“Because you needed them.”

“But why didn’t you let us know who you were?”

“Because it’s good to give when only God knows about it.”

That answer would become the foundation for the legend still celebrated today.”

(Read the entire article here :
In Search of the Real Santa Claus)

I learned of the REAL St. Nicholas when my boys were about 4 and 7 years old. I was thrilled! Thrilled that I could incorporate the REAL meaning of Christmas, yet let them have fun with Santa! Here is what I did: We sat down and I told them I wanted to tell them about the REAL Santa Claus. I shared how he was born to missionary parents and that he loved Jesus with all his heart. How he saved a young woman from being sold into slavery for her father’s debts by “waiting until night and throwing a bag of gold into an open window,” which actually enabled the family to live for an entire year. I shared hat to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, since we couldn’t give a gift to Jesus, we would give gifts to each other because Jesus loved us that much. I also said that after the first and real Santa – Nicholas, died, others took up his cause to be a blessing and to honor Jesus’ birthday like he did. I went on to say that when we see Santa Claus at the mall, it is a reminder of the man who loved Jesus, and children and wants us to celebrate His birthday by giving gifts to each other. After all, the greatest gift was Jesus Himself.

Then we talked about cartoons and Christmas fun like for Rudolph and the North Pole and elves, etc., that we can play and have fun with that like we do with toys! They loved it! This way, I kept the meaning of Christmas true in their hearts and didn’t have to fabricate a thing. (Bonus idea – when we watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas, when the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes because the “true meaning of Christmas came through” – I would say – watch! WATCH – Jesus is going to come into his heart! It was great!!)

We still went to the mall and sat on Santa’s lap and watched Rudolph and all the fun stuff kids like to do – but we walked in truth. We would see a Santa at the mall and I would remind them that Santa symbolizes Jesus’ great love for all of us. And because it is HIS birthday, and He is no longer on earth, we give gifts to each other in His name! He gave us the greatest gift! You can incorporate this into all kinds of activities. We also did shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child and gifts from the Salvation Army tree. But, in teaching my boys about the REAL Santa, they knew WHY he did what he did and I was never worried that “commercial Santa” would overtake our Christmas celebrations because we walked in truth.

Isn’t it like the enemy, to take the real St. Nicholas, and pervert the story, water it down, and shove it into history books until “men” attribute the miracles he performed in Jesus’ Name to mere myths? The man who gave his life, to serve others in Jesus’ name, even raising the dead, has been watered down to a fat jolly man who flies through the air – something that when a child is older, will never believe and may wonder – “what else did my parents tell me that wasn’t true?…..I’ve never seen Jesus either and He’s going to come back in the sky one day? Sure mom.”

Truth… truth brings peace. Truth brings understanding. I love Christmas and I love very reason we have Christmas – to celebrate the birth of our Savior. At our home, Santa bows his knee to Jesus – it was the way he lived his life, and it is how he would want his memory to be honored.

So, Merry Christmas! Enjoy your children! Take them to see Santa Claus and tell them what Santa represents to us – a reminder that it is Jesus’ Birthday and we give gifts to each other in HIS honor. What a mighty God we serve! Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will toward men!