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Religion

The Truth About St. Nicholas

By Pastor Phillip Howle
web posted December 18, 2013

RELIGION – A few years back I wrote that Jesus was better than Santa Clause. That was a no brainer right? But I have sense learned that I might have not given Santa enough credit. As I learned more about the man, St. Nicholas, I am very impressed with him. We don’t say St. Nicholas as much now, as we say Santa Claus, Santa comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, which is itself from a series of corruptions of the transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos”. To the Dutch he is also known as De Goedheiligman (The Good Holy Man), or simply as De Sint (The Saint).  As we will see there is good reason for this.    

St.  Nicholas was born a Greek in Asia Minor in A.D. 280. He was blessed to have Godly and wealthy parents who raised him to know and love Jesus. Even as a child, he would fast on Wednesday and Friday to focus more on Jesus. Sadly, his parents died when he was young and he was raised by an uncle named Nicholas, who was a Bishop. His uncle trained him to become a bishop from a young age.
 
He had plenty of money, but was lonely and wanted to use his money to bless people. James Parker writes that “The first opportunity to do this happened when he heard about a father who, through an unfortunate turn of events, was left destitute with three daughters. Without marriage dowry money, the daughters would be condemned to a life of singleness and prostitution, so Nicholas threw some small bags of gold coins into the window of the home (some traditions say down the chimney), thereby saving the children from a life of misery.”  This sort of thing went on the entirety of his life.

When Nicholas became a Bishop he was known for his holiness and devotion to spreading the Gospel. He preached against the paganism of his day. This raised the anger of Emperor Diocletian who in A.D. 303, directed the persecution of Christians, and “as he Nicholas was the chief priest of the Christians of this town and preached the truths of faith with a holy liberty, Nicholas was seized by the magistrates, tortured, then chained and thrown into prison with many other Christians.”

Years later when the Edict of Milan was issued by Emperor Constantine that ordered the ending of all persecution of all Christians he was released from prisons. The brave men, like St. Nicholas, who survived Diocletian’s wrath, were called “confessors” because they wouldn’t deny their confession of Jesus as Lord. James Parker writes that “When Bishop Nicholas walked out of the prison, the crowds called to him: “Nicholas! Confessor!” He had been repeatedly beaten until he was raw, and his body was the color of vermilion.“
 
St. Nicholas was very intense and powerfully devoted to Jesus! There was a heresy going around spread by a man named Arius that said that Jesus was a created being and not eternal like God the Father. This lead to a huge meeting of all the church leaders called the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325. As Arius spoke and belittled the eternality of Jesus he became more upset. St. Nicholas finally arose from his seat and walked over to Arius as he was speaking and punched him in the face.

The Emperor Constantine was present at the Council and he was so alarmed by St. Nicholas’ act of violence that he and the other bishops stripped Nicholas of his office and confiscated his two possessions that set him apart as a priest; his personal copy of the Gospels and his pallium, which was a special vestment worn by all bishops in the East.

But the story didn't stop there. There is a tradition that says that after Nicholas was deposed, the Lord Jesus Christ and Mary visited Nicholas who was being held in a prison cell for his fist-fight with the heretic, Airus. That night Jesus Christ asked Saint Nicholas, “Why are you here?” Nicholas responded, “Because I love you, my Lord and my God.”Christ then presented Nicholas with his copy of the Gospels. Then Mary vested Nicholas with his Episcopal pallium, thus restoring him to his rank as a bishop. So then when the Emperor Constantine heard of this miracle, he immediately ordered that Nicholas be reinstated as a bishop in good standing for the Council of Nicea.

James Parker writes that when you think of St. Nicholas “Think of a godly Christian bishop who was persecuted and imprisoned for faithfully proclaiming the faith under the most dangerous of circumstances. Think of someone who had a sensitive caring pastoral heart and took care of the flock of which God had made him shepherd. Think of someone who provided support and defense for children, the weak and poor, the helpless and victims of injustice. Think of someone with an unparalleled passion for doctrinal purity. And to top it off, think of someone whose whole purpose in life was to point people to Jesus.”  (Much info for this article gained form http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/my-kind-of-santa/)

So, while Jesus is still far better than Santa, it is safe to say that if you have allowed Santa to overtake Jesus in your celebration of Christmas he would come and punch you in the face! Have a Jesus filled Christmas and teach your children the exciting truth about St. Nicholas! 
 



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