Yes, Virginia, There Was a Saint Nicholas

At a time in history when mankind’s faith is an ocean at low ebb – when it’s difficult for adults or children to believe in anything because of man’s failure and perhaps inability to live up to reasonable expectations – I would like to take this opportunity to reassure every man, woman and child upon this globe that Santa Claus is real.

He is not a mere wispy sentiment of generosity perpetuated among conspiring adults to play upon the gullibility of innocent children, nor is he simply an inflated legend of the literary and motion picture industries created to stimulate the purchase of merchandise to be given away as gifts.

He was a real person, born Nicholas of Myra a mere two hundred seventy-some years after the birth of Christ. Most of his life – and death – is fogged by mystery and legend, but we can be sure that he was a follower of Christ and a bishop of the church where he lived. And the mysteries of the miracles said to have been done by God through him as well as the legends of kindnesses done by him all share a magnificent common theme: giving … generosity … charity.

He had a great heart; he was eager to share wealth with the poor. And as the respect for certain saints grew into veneration in the centuries that followed his death, his memory was among the most celebrated and the most widely-observed. His death on December 6 was commemorated with a variety of practices and festivities. In northern Europe, he became known as Sinterklass – Saint Nicholas – and over a number of years in the English-speaking world that moniker slurred into “Santa Claus.”

Perhaps the life of Nicholas was exaggerated in that growing observance; perhaps not. But it became of such fascination that his very remains were stolen and secreted from his hometown Myra to another location – and perhaps more than one – in the hope that their presence would somehow bring God’s blessing.

What can be ascertained about Nicholas of Myra is that he serves as an inspiration for the generosity of a season marked by the giving of gifts, just as wealthy wise men gave gifts to the infant Jesus. They knew His true identity as King of Israel, but perhaps never knew that He was also King of Heaven and Earth, of all creation, of all people.

He was given as a gift to mankind, through Whom many other gifts could be given to bless us, every one: hope, purpose, an empowering Holy Spirit, a life without end in God’s kingdom.

Of this, Nicholas could be certain – and so can you.

For 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. ~ John 3:16

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