Friday, December 19, 2014

Why We do St. Nick and Not Santa


 Jolly Old St. Nicholas....

I began forming my views on Santa long before I even thought about having kids or getting married. Maybe because I tend towards a black and white analytical and critical view of everything, or maybe because I had believed in Santa until I was ten... I am not sure. But I have had strong opinions on the guy for awhile.

Let me first of all say that if you are reading this and you do Santa that is awesome. My opinion really doesn't matter. If you're comfortable with your traditions and you've arrived at them prayerfully then you are probably doing the right thing for your family. We all have the freedom to change things up too if you read this or other blogs and realize maybe you don't want to "do Santa".

This blog post probably won't be anything new or revolutionary. There are dozens of blogs about Santa and St. Nick that are more insightful and detailed than this one, and I will link to them. Below is just my heart and what we've decided for our family.

St. Nick

I grew up celebrating St. Nick's Day on December 6th and it was always a lot of fun to see what he would leave outside for us to find. (I still get St. Nick gifts as an adult and the family member has yet to reveal themselves). I've read a whole book on St. Nick called The True St. Nicholas, given to me by a family member trying to convince me to do Santa. The book actually deepened my conviction to not do Santa as I learned that the original St. Nick and the modern day Santa really have hardly anything in common.

As we had started having children we hadn't established whether or not we would do St. Nick's day. Last year I ran across this blog at The Art of Simple about celebrating St. Nick's Day and my heart was rekindled for approaching St. Nick in a Christ honoring way, not as a saint to be glorified, but a man that can point us to Jesus.

We purchased these two books on St. Nick to read the night before or morning of St. Nick's Day.
St. Nicholas, the Real Story of the Christmas Legend
The Story of St. Nicholas
On the morning of St. Nick's they get a new Christmas book, movie, or craft, or some combination thereof. The point is the St. Nick's gifts point them to the true meaning of Christmas. We tell them we are playing the St Nick game and that the gifts are from Mommy and Daddy, since St. Nick is dead of course. It is fun for them to pretend, knowing it is us playing St. Nick.
In the future I'd like to play St. Nick to someone else and have the kids think of a way to bless a poor or needy family, just as St Nick did, as St. Nick followed the example of Jesus.

So that's how we incorporate St. Nick. I really appreciate them learning about the real St. Nick.

 We don't do Santa for several reasons. The first being that I see him as a distraction when incorporated in the traditional way on Christmas morning. We don't think he is evil or Satan, but he is a HUGE distraction. We don't think the birth of Christ needs anything extra to make the day more magical. If the incarnation isn't magical enough then we all need to check our hearts and try to really think about how miraculous Christ's birth actually is. Because it truly is... miraculous!
Second of all, because we want to focus on Christ, we try to keep gift-giving to a minimum and to instead focus on giving gifts to Jesus. A great book for this is The King's Christmas List.    It is really tough to do Santa and keep gift giving to a minimum. Not impossible, but tricky.
Third, we don't like the theology that modern day Santa teaches. Just think about the words to Santa Claus is Coming to Town. For thoughts on this I turn to Noel Piper. : 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

His Law is Love and His Gospel is Peace

Christmas Reflections 2014

I realize not everyone reading this celebrates Christmas, or at least may not celebrate Christmas in a religious sense. Just humor me if you would be so kind. :)

Every time I turn on the news or see news reports on the internet I just get so heavy hearted. There is so much heartbreak in the world right now; such mass killings overseas, death from diseases like Ebola, and injustice here in the U.S. that so many still experience. Then add on all sorts of other awful things like cancer and Alzheimers and child abuse and hunger and poverty, and it is so easy to become downright depressed and hopeless. I suspect many are.

This is my third Christmas with a young baby. There is something about having a baby in my arms during Christmas that makes me more reflective about how it must have been for Mary. My heart ponders things. As I have been singing through Christmas carols this year there has been something that has stood out to me. Let me share some lines from the songs with you. I think these words speak timeless truths and apply to all the calamities and strife occurring in the world today.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, verse 4: “O Come, Desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind; bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease; Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.”
Joy to the World, verse 4: “He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love.”
O Holy Night: “Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining; It is the night of the dear savior's birth! Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till he appear'd and the soul felt it's worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn! Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices, Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born.
Truly he taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother, And in his name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise his holy name. Christ is the Lord. Oh praise his name forever. His power and glory forever more proclaim. Fall on your knees…”

All the things I mentioned above can leave us hopeless, unless we know that one day things will be made right. The baby that was born to Mary grew up to be a Savior and a King. You see, Christ is the desire of all the nations. People of all nations yearn and long for a message that gives hope and peace. A message that promises that one day things will be different. Christ is that message. He came to bring unity, peace, and love. When we see unfair leaders, governments, and terrorist groups, we can be reminded that right now He rules the world with truth and grace. This world is weary. I’m weary, aren’t you? I am weary of the sickness, of the hate, of the violence, of children being beheaded because of their faith, of people being shot and killed, of gov’t that is unfair. I am weary. But, there is a thrill of hope inside my heart and I rejoice. My hope is in Christ and in eternity with Him, so this is cause of much rejoicing!

The words that have been bringing the most meaning to me this Christmas season are from O Holy Night. It says that He taught us to love one another, and that His law is LOVE and his gospel is PEACE.  We may not ever experience a law of love and a world of peace while on this earth, but one day, when we are with Christ in heaven or when He sets up His kingdom on earth, we will certainly experience a perfect law of love and a world of peace. We will truly see all people as our brother and sister with no distinction or prejudice, and all oppression will cease. Oh how I long for this day. How beautiful does that sound? And oh how it will be truly beautiful.

We can all experience that in our heart now, even in the midst of this crazy world. His gospel is peace. Those who trust in Him and believe that He is the Son of God can experience this love and peace right now. This is why we can have hope and rejoice!

“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel”  We can rejoice because Emmanuel has come. He came to give us a way to know perfect love and peace, and that way is Him. Will you celebrate Him this Christmas? Maybe for the first time. I pray you will find hope in the Christmas story in a fresh and new way this year.