When I was little, Santa was a no-show at my house: not a picture, not a place, not a present. It wasn’t all Santa’s fault he didn’t visit; technically, he wasn’t allowed. My parents were new believers, and their church taught them that Santa and holiday decorations were akin to the devil. Not even Christmas trees were permissible.
Thankfully, my parents still flocked the tree and surrounded it with presents for my sister and I. Then, over the years, our family’s Christmas traditions grew to include multiple trees and decorations everywhere. But Santa? Nowhere to be found.
When the day came that I had my own children, I wasn’t opposed to Santa. If anything, sitting my little ones on Santa’s lap for a holiday picture was my idea of adorable – until the year my 8-year old piped up, “Mom, I don’t want to sit on the lap of an old fat man we don’t know.” That ended that!
Anyway, here I am now: my kids way too old for Santa pictures and no grandbabies to pose with him yet. He remains a non-entity in my family’s traditions, and I really have no reason to introduce him now.
However, I’m recently struck with a new thought about Santa.
We’ve been learning Philippians 4:9 – “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me…” and I wonder but that this verse applies to the real Santa as much as any other godly person.
The real Santa was St. Nicholas. Born March 15th around 270 A.D., Nicholas was raised in a wealthy, godly home. Then he was orphaned at a young age when his parents died in an epidemic. Left with a huge inheritance, Nicholas grew up and chose to take very literally Jesus’ command to give to the poor. He gave his inheritance away and entered the ministry, becoming a bishop known for his generosity. Many, many stories exist about Nicholas helping people, including giving dowry money to three impoverished girls about to be sold into prostitution.
Nicholas’ became especially noted for his kindness and generosity to children and women and concern for sailors. He was part of the Council of Nicaea, and he was so convinced that Jesus is God that he suffered persecution and even imprisonment for his faith in Christ. Nicholas’ faith and generosity become the stuff of legends.
All this leads us to the question: What shall we say to the children about Santa Claus?
Here’s the thing:
While some St. Nicholas stories may be embellished, the basis of his story is that he loved Jesus and he loved people. Nicholas lived a life of faith, literally obeying Jesus’ words, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21). Take ten minutes to skim the internet about Nicholas; every story suggests that did follow Jesus
This being the case, what should we say to the children about Santa?
Say what you will about the “old fat man” at the mall (as my daughter put it). Say the presents are from him if you want. Talk about Santa sightings on Christmas Eve – – – – or don’t!
But about the real Santa? We should tell the children about how he loved Jesus and loved others. We should tell them that he follow Jesus from the time he was their age. We should tell them the man who became known as St. Nicholas set an example and displayed godly character we should all put into practice: generosity, obedience to God’s Word, faithfulness, sacrifice, compassion, and so much more.
Turns out, my birthday December 6th is St. Nicholas Day. What a great day to actively look for others we can help and serve in Jesus’ Name, just like the original Santa.
My kids may be past sitting in Santa’s lap, but this is what I’ll be saying to them this year. I’ll be saying that these words, from Philippians, are very well an echo from St. Nicholas’ life, too:
“Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me…”
© 2019 Tosha L. Williams