The legend of Santa Claus has been part of the Christmas story for a long time. Nicholas was born in Asia Minor, probably in the country now known as Turkey, as a nobleman who became a Christian Priest around the year 280 AD. Even though Nicholas would never marry, he loved children, and it became his habit to visit the homes of the poor to give gifts to the children in secret — sometimes even sneaking into homes in the middle of the night to remain anonymous. Eventually Saint Nicholas would be linked to Christmas as the patron who would deliver gifts to children on Christmas Eve.
I love the idea of Santa Claus. I know what some of you are thinking… how can you love the idea of the symbol of the secularization of Christmas? Christmas ought to be about the birth of Jesus, not a chubby, jolly, hot chocolate-chugging mythical being. Listen carefully… I love the IDEA of Santa Claus. A benevolent Christian blessing poor children simply for the joy of giving.
Gift giving is part of the Christmas Story. The angels offered the gift of their worship on Christmas night — and what a worshipful celebration is was! A multitude of angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” It was as if Heaven had burst in it’s desire to celebrate that The Messiah had finally been born.
The shepherds didn’t have much to offer, but they shared their companionship. Seeking out Jesus and his parents in the middle of the night in the village of Bethlehem… searching until they found them. There they gazed in awe at The Promised One.
After visiting the stable, they offered the gift of glorifying God and proclaiming the arrival of The Messiah to everyone who would listen.
And then there are the Magi…travelers from a far away land and the bearers of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gifts the family desperately needed to fund their 2 year exile to Egypt to escape the treachery of King Herod.
Lastly, there was the Little Drummer Boy… offering his gift of playing his drum with passion for Baby Jesus… okay, okay… just having a little fun with you…
Gifts are part of the Christmas story though, and because of that we give gifts to loved ones to commemorate the greatest gift that has ever been given… Emmanuel. God with us! Jesus, the Savior of people from their sins. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Tomorrow, as you give a gift… as you open a gift… remember the wonderful gift given that first Christmas in the tiny town of Bethlehem… Jesus.