This week, Pastor John hands
Ho Ho Ho
Dear Northpoint Family,
Do you ever wonder where some of our holiday traditions come from? Like, who decided green bean casserole should be on every Thanksgiving table? Don’t get me wrong! Any side dish recipe that requires you to open a couple cans, stir and heat has my vote.
The Christmas season is here and one of the traditional images we see all around us is Santa Claus, with his red suit, trimmed in “faux” fur, of course, his rosy cheeks, and that little round belly that shakes “like a bowlful of jelly.” (Perhaps Mrs. Claus will give him a Bowflex this Christmas.)
As Christians, it’s hard not to take offense at this fictional character who seems to steal the spotlight year after year, displacing Christ from the center of our attention, even as we celebrate HIS birth. But perhaps knowing a little bit about the true story behind this tradition will brighten our perspective.
The true story of Santa Claus—or Saint Nick—began in the third century in the Greek village of Patara. Nicholas was born to wealthy parents who raised him to be a devout Christian. His parents died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Matthew 19:21), Nicholas used his entire inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and entered the ministry as a young man. Nicholas became known near and far for his generosity to those in need and his love for children.
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, Christians were persecuted ruthlessly. Nicholas was exiled and imprisoned for his faith. It is said that at this time the prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves, and robbers.
After his release, Nicholas took part in the Council of Nicea convened by Emperor Constantine in AD 325. Over 300 bishops and leaders came from all over the Christian world to define and affirm the essential tenants of the Christian faith, including the nature of God and the Trinity. A man named Arius vigorously argued that Jesus Christ was not an eternal being and therefore not truly divine. History records that Nicholas became so enraged at Arius’ ongoing heretical rant, that he crossed the room and slapped Arius across the face! Ashamed of his outburst, Nicholas was reprimanded for losing his temper. But the council went on to overwhelmingly uphold the doctrine of Christ’s true deity—not because it was a doctrine determined by men, but it is the clear teaching of the Word of God.
At the conclusion of the Council, Constantine documented their affirmation of the Apostle’s teachings in Scripture for all time in what is now known as the Nicene Creed. Following is a part of this Creed that speaks to the glory of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We believe … 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.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.
What an amazing Savior! This is the story of Christmas—the glorious reality behind all the traditions—that we need to remind ourselves of and proclaim to the world.
Quoting the Prophet Isaiah, Matthew 4:16 says, “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” That light is our Savior, Jesus Christ. Just a chapter later, in Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells his followers, “YOU are the light of the world.” Christ came into our world, bringing the light of eternal life. Now we are to continue shining that light to those in darkness around us.
This Christmas, let’s determine to focus on shining the light of Christ and bringing attention to him wherever we can. This is such a unique time to share our faith in our ordinary routines: walking through stores as we hear the traditional carols proclaiming the Savior, including Jesus in our home decorations inside and out, or sending Christmas cards with the gospel message. Just the simple greeting, “Merry Christmas,” can open the door to a conversation about the Savior. The opportunities are many if we will look for ways to be a light to the world around us.
That’s why we have incorporated the true story of Saint Nicholas into our Christmas Tea drama this year. We are also including a copy of the complete Nicene Creed in each woman’s printed program. What a great opportunity to proclaim the truth of who Jesus Christ truly is! We will be hosting 672 guests during our three showings on December 2 and 3, many of whom are not believers or don’t have a church home. We would truly appreciate your prayers!
There is such a rich and amazing truth behind our Christmas traditions—one that can make an eternal difference. Let’s tell the story.
Celebrating the Savior,