Now, as I have tried to make clear, I love, love, love the American celebration of Christmas. The only thing I would tweak would be the gift exchange of adults, but for kids, gift giving on Christmas morning is simply magical. I am glad Cheri, my wife, goes beyond the call of duty to make Christmas morning special for the kids. However, having told you I’m good with the holly, mistletoe, Santa and Frosty, 99% of what you are being told about Christmas is “fake news.” At this point almost everything about the cultural celebration of Christmas is made up by shrewd marketers and public relations firms.
The original saint Nicholas, from where we have extracted Santa Claus, was a Greek born 280 years after Christ. He became bishop of Myra, a small Roman town in modern day Turkey. Nicholas was neither fat nor jolly, but developed a reputation as a fiery, wiry, and defiant defender of church doctrine during the “Great Persecution,” when Bibles were put to the torch and priests made to renounce Christianity or face execution. There’s one story circulating that at the trial of a heretic who was denying the faith, Saint Nicholas went over and punched him in the face. How about we all punch a heretic in the face every Christmas for a new tradition.
Nicholas actually spent time in prison before Constantine brought Christianity to prominence in his empire. Nicholas’ fame lived long after his death (on December 6 of some unknown year in the mid-fourth century) because he was associated with many miracles, and reverence for him continues to this day independent of his Santa Claus connection. The whole idea of Nicholas bringing gifts to children is very shaky. Supposedly, he brought three bags of gold to an indebted father who’s three young daughters had been forced into prostitution. I’m not sure how, but Nicholas got labeled as the bringer of gifts to children.
But good news, it’s not grinch-y or curmudgeonly to say there’s a “fake Christmas,” because there’s also a real Christ-mass and it’s sooo much merrier and brighter than the the manufactured one. And that’s saying something because the phony one is pretty cool sometimes. The word “Christ” or “Kris” is the Greek word for messiah or anointed one and the word “mass” is the latin term for the “eucharist.” The eucharist is not only the sharing of Christ body for the forgiveness of our sins but also to symbolize our inclusion into the great big wonderful family of God. Apostle John wrote in his Gospel in John 21:25 “Jesus did many other things… If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” Not only do we not have to make up things about Jesus, we don’t have space in our library for all of the factual stuff about him.
Listen, we humans know there’s “magical” stories connected to the origins of the species and I could make the case that deep in our soul we know there’s a magical story for the future of the human race. I am absolutely positive that the “magical” story that is actually true doesn’t involve the north pole and reindeer but a Bethlehem stable, an old rugged cross and a someday returning King. So go ahead and have your secular humanistic ACLU, Department of Education approved holiday but please, please open your Bible and open your heart to the the real Christmas made possible by the Lord who loves you and has unopened gifts that won’t end up in a yard sale.