Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Imitating Santa

The personification of Santa Claus originated with  real person - St. Nicholas

Born - approximately 270 AD at Patara - port on the Mediterranean Sea.  (present day Turkey)

Parents - wealthy/upper class - both died in an epidemic while Nicholas was a boy.

Raised by his Uncle Nicholas - founder and abbot at New Zion Monastery in Patara - which led to Nicholas' desire to become a monk.

He had money, but while was still young, decided to give away his fortune and inheritance.  AND, to do so quietly.  (his rule for this - Matt. 6:3-4 )

As a teen - sent out by his uncle to study at Alexandria in Egypt - one of the greatest learning centers of the world at that time (like going to Harvard or Princeton today).  So - he went to the Christian School of Alexandria - which was founded by John Mark!!  Basically - the first Christian seminary.

Next - he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (to round out his education)
He hoped for confirmation of his desire (heart) which was to become a monk. 
He received a call in a vision/dream - 'no, not going to be a monk'.  "This is not the vineyard where you shall bear fruit for me.  Return to the world and glorify my name there."

En route home, the ship was caught in a storm - he prays and his prayer calms the storm - and he raises a young sailor who had fallen to his death during the storm.
So.... during a stop at the port of Myra - he enters the church there early one morning to pray and give thanks.  Meanwhile, (unknown to Nicholas), the hierarchy (chief bishop) of the area had died. 
The other bishops ga6thered to choose his successor.  Legend has it that the oldest bishop had a dream that God said that "1st. person named Nicholas to enter the church would become the chief bishop"

So........ he became Bishop of Myra (and served there until his death around 343 AD)  He didn't want to be a bishop, but......

Around 303 AD - Diocletian comes to the throne and began the Great Persecution.  Feb. 24, 303, Diacletian's first "Edict Against the Christians"
ordered - "the destruction of Christian scripture, liturgical books and place of worship".
Christians were deprived of the right to petition courts (no legal rights or recourse)
Christian politicians, senators, office holders, government officials, veterans & soldiers - were deprived of their offices and ranks - and imperial freedmen were re-enslaved. 
Burning alive was the recommended form of execution by Galerius.

3 more edicts followed.  Eusebius wrote: "the prison system filled with/deacons, pastors, priests, bishops to the point that criminals had to be released".  One of these imprisoned was Nicholas.

Approximate length of imprisonment - reasonable guess - 7 years.

Then, the Edict of toleration - by Galerius in 311 - backed off and said to let Christians worship
               Edict of Milan - by Constantine in 313 - all religions are to be equal and he promoted Christianity.

Nicholas was released and returned to Myra where he resumed his office.

His next appearance - Council of Nicea - 325 AD

325 - AD - all bishops invited by Constantine to attend, address issues of orthodoxy, and establish uniform doctrine.

One main point - the nature and deity of Christ (doctrine of the Trinity) - co-eternal/equal with God? - ortho/trinity OR the first created being?  - the view of Arius (Arianism)

In the midst of heated debate, Nicholas slaps Arius!!!  He is arrested, stripped of Bishop's robe, put in a cell.  The next morning, he is in his cell, un-shackled with his garments (vestments) on and scripture!!!  (this, according to legend)

Nicholas continued as Bishop of Myra until his death - Dec. 6th, 343.  On the church calendar this date is St. Nicholas Day.

Eventually he was sainted and became the patron saint of many groups/peoples - especially 1) sailors and 2) children.

Then, St. Nicholas became known as Father Christmas, Sinter Klauss in the Netherlands w/white hair, bishop's hat, which turned into Santa Claus.


Nicholas was not a perfect Christian or perfect man - but he does = model Christian
ie:  we should A) look up to  B) Imitate

Set aside that he was a Bishop, miracle worker, friend of the Emperor, and look at his ordinary, common traits that made him and uncommon man.

He was:
1.  A seeker - of God, of truth.  (therefore - desire of  'monk')
Deut. 4:29 - Seek"
A)  requires effort, diligence, discipline, and B) = a lifelong pursuit.

2. A responder - example:  heart's desire = monk/calling = minister
Application is more than a life calling, it is a daily calling - a call to apply a truth, repent of an action/attitude
If won't respond to what God has already shown you, won't go very far.

3.  A student - before can do His will, must know His will!!!  Note:  an enthusiastic adherent without knowledge can lead to heresy.  Rom. 10:2 

4.  A servant - obviously A) of God, but also B) of the people!!  John 21 - "Peter, do you love me? Then ????"  A student who is NOT a servant has missed the gospel.  Cannot be a servant of God and not be a servant of people.
But, he was more than a servant -

5.  An advocate - ie.  helper, defender, protector - example - the 3 innocents - he literally stepped in and stopped the execution of three wrongly accused men.
1 Pet. 5:1-2 - written to pastors, but we are not exempt from this.

6.  A steward - ie:  a manager of the Master's wealth - one who handles well what's entrusted to him. 
This is more than just money - also, time, talents, abilities AND opportunities!!
Example:  during terrible famine in Myra, Nicholas went to Constantine and asked him to lower taxes on the people because they were in such dire straits.

Question:  "Why me?"  Because, "best suited, best situated, etc.

Because he was Christ's steward, he was also
7.  A giver - more than money, but includes money.
Step #1 - give yourself, then can #2. give stuff

Underlying all this = Nicholas was who he was because:
#1.  He was a Christian

#2.  He was a Christian follower - head, heart, HANDS

So, imitate Santa/Nicholas, etc.
BUT:  Follow Christ!!!

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