Christmas with a Capital
â€œFor God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.â€? John 3:16
History tells us that the legend of St. Nicholas can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk, who eventually became a bishop, in the early church. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. somewhere around modern-day Turkey. He was a very kind and generous man who was very wealthy and tried to live out Jesus’ words to “sell all you have and give it to the poor.” He gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor, suffering, and sick and advocating for the rights of children. So, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends for hundreds of years, and then in the 18th century, he was given a nickname by the people in Holland which is used by millions today—Santa Clause. But even then, with that nickname, Santa Clause was viewed as a model for philanthropy, an example of what it means to serve the poor, and because he was an ancient priest—a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, Nicholas was thought of as someone who was fully committed to loving, serving, and helping those in need, for the sake of the Kingdom of God. He was even persecuted for his faith and was imprisoned for some time in his life, which made people respect and love him even more. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church says that Nicholas is regarded as the Patron Saint of sailors, the Patron Saint of Russia and the Patron Saint of Children. So when did things get off track? When did St. Nicholas, St. Nick, Santa Clause change from being viewed as an obedient disciple of Christ who took care of the needy to being thought of as this jolly ole fellow who is the benevolent giver of anything your heart desires? The change in how he was viewed began immediately after his death. He died on
December 6, 343 AD and every year after, a festival that was called, Feast Day was celebrated on the anniversary of his death. Not only was this an excuse to party like it’s 399, but this date was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases, get married or give gifts to children. By the time of the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. But it really wasn’t until the year 1822 that St. Nicholas began to become who we think of today. In 1822, an Episcopal minister named Clement Clarke Moore, wrote a poem for his three daughters. It was a Christmas poem that he called “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.” We know it better as: Twas the Night Before Christmas. Many of us like this poem. It’s great, and it’s fun—it’s a beautiful poem and a beautiful story. But, we have to remind ourselves that neither this story nor the main character in it represents what Christmas is all about. Santa is a happy part of Christmas, but he’s not central to Christmas; this story is a great story but it doesn’t encompass the real meaning of Christmas. In fact, this story and Santa are both quite insignificant to the Christmas story. And, if St. Nicholas were here today, I imagine he would be extremely embarrassed at what he’s become to us. If he were here today, he would point us to Scripture as our text to recite so often that we learn it by heart. He would remind us that it is God who is the benevolent giver of all good things. After all, it is God who gave the greatest gift of all.
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HOLIDAY SCHEDULE CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE — 5:30 PM CHRISTMAS DAY — NO HUB SERVICE THERE WILL BE AN 11:05 CHURCH WIDE SERVICE IN THE SANCTUARY. NEW YEAR’S EVE OPEN HOUSE AT THE NELSON’S — 6PM – 10 PM
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CHRIST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH 3300 AUSTIN PARKWAY SUGAR LAND, TEXAS 77479 PHONE: 281.980.6888