Thursday, December 6, 2007

I am Santa Claus

Hello, I am Santa Claus. I appreciate David giving me some blog space to communicate with you. My real name is Nicholas and I lived from A.D. 280-343 in the country now known as Turkey. I became a priest at a very young age and later I became a bishop. My parents were rich and, when they died, I became a very wealthy member of the clergy upon receiving my inheritance.

I gave away my fortune to the poor and needy. I tell you this reluctantly, because I am aware that Jesus said that we should help the needy secretly (Mat. 6:1-4). However, there is a character named after me in your culture whose story bears little resemblance to mine so I feel a bit of a need to set the record straight. Besides, I have been dead for more than 16 1/2 centuries, so what can it hurt to tell you now?

I took seriously Jesus' command in passages like Luke 12:33-34 where he told his followers to sell their possessions and give to the poor. Secretly I used my riches to assist the less fortunate in an effort to be obedient to this Christian calling. When my actions were later revealed, my story was told and re-told and some fantastic legends about me began to be circulated far and wide.

In the United States many of the popular tales about me appear to spring from some imaginative stories and a poem written about me in the early 1800's. I am known as a chubby guy in a red suit because of an artist's depiction of me in the U.S. in the 1800's. That image was picked up by other artists and it was made popular especially through Coca Cola ads that ran for many years beginning in the early 1900's.

I became connected with Christmas because I died on December 6. Many Christians from the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions hold a feast in my honor on this date. In some areas the Feast of Saint Nicholas is held at the same time as the Feast of Christmas. So you can see how some traditions about me became mingled with Christmas.

I hear that many in this culture think this season is more about my coming than Jesus' coming. As a follower of Jesus I would much prefer that the Advent season be observed as the coming of Jesus rather than the coming of Santa Claus. However, if you are going to connect this season with me to your children or your grandchildren or yourself, then do me a favor and get my story right.

There are several children's books containing my real story that you can pick up and read to young people. There is a brief article about me that came out a few years ago in the Biblical Recorder that you can read here. I would really appreciate it if you might use such resources to recover the true story about me.

According to a traditional Christmas reading from the epistles, Jesus gave himself for us "to purify for himself a people zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:14, NRSV). I hope my testimony of good deeds in some small way honors this purpose for which Jesus gave himself for us.

What about your Santa Claus traditions? Do they line up well with my real story? Are they true to the purpose for which Christ gave himself--to create a people zealous for good deeds? Do you sell your possessions and give to the poor as Jesus commanded?

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