Santa Worships Him

Monday, December 13, 2010

When my children were young, I bought a book about the kneeling Santa. I no longer have the book and don't remember the entire story, but it ends with Santa on his knees at the manger, worshiping Jesus.

Even though it's just a story, it isn't far from the truth. That's because Santa Claus is modeled after St. Nicholas of Bari, who was a dedicated follower of Christ.

St. Nicholas was the Mother Theresa of his day. Born in the third century, he had wealthy parents who were devout Christians and raised their son to be one, too. Nicholas inherited their wealth after they died in an epidemic, and he used his inheritance to help the needy. Apparently he gave most of his money away anonymously, showing that he wasn't motivated by a desire for fame or adulation. No, he simply wanted to follow Christ's admonition to take care of the poor.

There is a great story about him that may even be true. It goes something like this.
A poor man had three daughters of marriageable age. Since he had no money for dowries to buy husbands with, the girls' future looked bleak--either sold as slaves or turned out to walk the streets in a different kind of slavery.
Hearing of their plight, Nicholas snuck up to the house one night and tossed a bag of gold through the open window. Legend says the gold landed in a stocking drying by the fire or in a shoe. Now that the man had enough money for one dowry, the first daughter married.
Nicholas appeared under cover of darkness a second time, found the window open again, and threw in another bag of gold. And a second daughter wed.
By now, the father had a clue that it might happen again, so he waited up to find out who was helping them. When Nicholas threw the third bag of gold into the house, the father chased after him and caught him. Nicholas asked the father to keep his identity a secret, but somebody told, or how would we know the story?
St. Nicholas was more than just a generous man, however. He was a great Christian as well.

Nicholas was one of the few people who became a bishop without first being a priest. Living in a time of persecution, he was imprisoned for standing up for his faith. And Bishop Nicholas must have been well-respected within the Christian community, because he attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. (For those of you who aren't up on church history, that was where they adopted the Nicene Creed. That creed is still widely accepted and used by Christians all over the world.)

So if Santa Claus visits your house this year, remember that he worshiped Jesus, too.

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The painting at the beginning of this post is "Saint Nicholas of Bari" by Gherardo Stamina, circa 1422. The physical painting is in the El Paso Museum of Art in El Paso, Texas.

1 comment:

Caroline said...

Interesting. I've heard the story of Santa kneeling, but never the other about Saint Nicholas. Thanks for sharing.

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