Year 2 Day 278
Read - Isaiah 9v1-7
Message - Scott Woodburn
We have unfortunately made Christmas all about the big man in the red suit. Some churches will meet today but forsake tomorrow, because somehow Christmas Day is more important than the Lord’s Day. Amazingly much of what we do at Christmas owes nothing to the Bible but everything to the traditions of 19th Century Europeans. The modern Santa Claus was an amalgamation of various myths and was brought to the USA by Dutch immigrants. Their ways were quickly adopted and years later here we are!
But where did the notion of jolly old Saint Nick come from? You might be surprised to learn that there was an actual Saint Nicholas but he certainly wasn’t from the North Pole. We don’t know much about the real Saint Nick but we can be reasonably sure that he was born in what is now modern day Turkey in 280 AD in a place called Patara. Later he became Bishop of Myra also in Turkey and died around 343 AD on the 6th December.
Nicholas suffered in the persecution of the Church under the Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian. He endured the persecution and returned home to great crowds who declared him to be “Nicholas the Confessor”. He allegedly was a great miracle worker who raised the dead, destroyed pagan temples and saved sailors from death at sea.
Even his children is reported as having been extraordinary. The story goes that when Nicholas was born he only nursed at his mother’s breast for two days per week and he fasted the other five days! Indeed as a child he was known for going to church early each day to spend time in prayer. One day the old priest declared that the next person to enter the church would one day become the Bishop of Myra. Needless to say Nicholas was the next to enter. The priest asked the young boy his name and he replied “Nicholas the Sinner”.
We get much of the modern day Santa Claus from Saint Nicholas. The red Santa outfit comes from Nicholas’ red bishop’s robe. The giving of gifts owes its origin to the wealth and generosity of Nicholas. It would seem he was from a wealthy family and thought nothing of sharing the wealth. A story is told that three young girls were soon to be forced into a life of prostitution and so Nicholas gave a bag of gold to each of the girls freeing them from their terrible fate.
Famously Nicholas is said to have attended the council of Nicea in 325 AD. The council had been called by the Emperor Constantine who was allegedly the first Christian Emperor. Constantine had seen the Greek letters “Chi” and “Rho” in a dream. These two letters are the first letters in the Greek word for Christ. Constantine heard a voice saying “by this sign you will conquer” and he had “Chi” and “Rho” painted on the shields of his army believing the victory was given to him by Jesus.
Constantine called the council of Nicea to discuss the divinity of Christ. A man called Arius and those who followed him argued that Jesus was created - Christ was not God. The other position declared Jesus to be begotten of the Father - Christ was God. Amazingly the debate came down to just one letter. Christ was either like the Father (HOMOI-OUSIOUS) or he was the same as the Father (HOMO-OUSIOUS). We can be thankful that truth won out - Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. The council produced the Nicene Creed which confesses belief “in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father.”
The real Saint Nicholas was so convinced of Christ’s divine nature that he allegedly slapped Arius across the face. We certainly don’t tell the kids that! But look…I wouldn’t stake my life on any of the stories about Saint Nicholas being true. I’m sure there were was such a man and the evidence suggests he loved Christ and so if we absolutely must remember jolly old Saint Nick, let us instead remember his Saviour. You see the observance of Christmas Day does not find its roots in the Bible. The Lord does not require us to mark the birth of Jesus with gifts and turkey and so may we today deliberately speak more of Christ than a mysterious Turkish Christian called Nicholas.
“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
Brothers and sisters, have a blessed Christmas.
Q41 Where is the moral law summarily comprehended? The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.