by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
Santa Claus today is celebrated as a jolly elf driving a sleigh into the sky, bringing toys to children. But behind this shallow icon is the reality of a godly and courageous man whose life began less than 300 years after the death of Jesus.
St. Nicholas was born around AD c270 in Patara, Turkey to wealthy Christian parents. His parents taught him the lessons which were then remaking the world, handing down from remembered lessons the words and acts of Christ and the gospels. The four major books, Mark, believed to have been written around ce70, Matthew, Luke, and John were by this time in the hands of the people.
Christianity, during this period, was rapidly becoming the dominant faith of the Western world because instead of relying on words Christians followed the Word of Christ, treating all around them, as Christ had commanded, “as themselves.” Reaching into their communities Christians embraced those who did not share their faith. This was also true of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra.
After the death of his parents Nicholas spent all of his inheritance caring for others. At a very young age, around 30, Nicholas was made Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, the city now known as Demre, He lived his entire life centered on Jesus Christ, working for justice and caring for those in need.
Aware of the injustices done to women, he provided dowries to poor girls so they could marry and live righteously. Without fear, he confronted authority when injustice was being done, giving no thought for his own safety. When the people of Myra suffered from over taxation he persuaded the Roman Emperor to lower the tax. He endured imprisonment for his faith with unfaltering devotion. During his lifetime he appeared and spoke to those guilty of injustice, persuading them to change their hearts and do right.
Bishop Nicholas, defender of the faith, forcefully argued for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. The Nicene Creed is still said in churches today. His acts reached around the Christian world, inspiring others to acts of love and faith in Jesus Christ.
On December 6th, 343 Bishop Nicholas died, but the reality of his acts and how they touched generations of people, continue with us today. This Christmas season, when you look at the image of Santa Claus, remember the real man.