I subscribe to RELEVANT Magazine’s weekly email 850 Words of RELEVANT. It typically features an article written by a prominent pastor, writer or other cultural figure along with updates on all things RELEVANT.
Today’s featured article was titled “Putting the St. Nick Back in Christmas,” and was written by Jason Boyett. (The article also appears in the current issue of the magazine.) In the article Boyett gives some historical perspective on Saint Nicholas; the 4th century bishop from whom the Santa Claus persona originates.
With all the talk of the “secularization” of Christmas that swarms around this time of year, it was interesting to hear Boyett offer an approach by which we can engage a “Christianity-averse” culture about the “reason for the season” in a unique and creative way. It reminded me a little bit of the conversation we had here a few months ago about Halloween.
I’m always an advocate for stripping away the Santa Claus stuff at Christmastime and focusing on Jesus. But there’s a wide chasm between baby Jesus and Santa Claus, and maybe it’s a lot to ask a Christianity-averse culture to make that long journey from one side to the other.
Perhaps a better idea is to move them toward the middle by resurrecting Saint Nicholas of Myra. Annoyed with all the Jesus talk? Don’t want to celebrate Christ at Christmas? Fine. Then let’s celebrate someone else. Let’s talk about the 4th-century dude who kept little boys from grisly deaths and kept little girls out of the sex trade. Let’s talk about the revered religious figure who freed those in bondage, who restored life to the lifeless, and who refused to overlook the suffering of the innocent. Let’s talk about the man of God who gave out of his prosperity, who dispensed grace with no strings attached, who lived to bless those trapped in poverty.
Let’s talk about Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, Sinterklaas 1.0. Because when we peel away the red robes and silly hat and centuries of tradition, we might just see something, in the Santa legend, that we Christians recognize: It’s the Gospel. It’s the Good News. It’s the face of Jesus. It’s hope for the hopeless, liberty for the captives, abundance for the poor.
Maybe the distance between the North Pole and Bethlehem isn’t so great after all.
Unfortunately I can’t give you a link to the article because it doesn’t exist online. If you’d like to read the whole thing, just leave a comment and I’ll forward the email to the email address you enter in the login.