Tag Archives: Christmas

Santa’s surprising origins – -A Christmas classic feature

By Rev. Austin Miles

MYRA – (Note To Readers: This story was first published on December 20, 2001. It has been picked up and re-published all over the world every year since, becoming a Holiday Tradition. Hallmark contacted the writer and asked him to appear in the Holiday movie, Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus, playing the Mall Santa that magically receives the gift of sign language. That movie is aired every year.)

He is lovable, congenial, giving and jolly. What’s more he knows everything, as any child will readily testify. He is a colorful old man, whose visits are eagerly awaited by millions of children each year and who, for a little while, makes the world a much happier place

Is Santa Claus a good influence on children, or a bad influence whose image merely commercializes Christmas and who takes the reason out of the season, as some charge?

Where did Santa come from? It will surprise many to learn that Santa Claus (as we know him today) came out of the church itself through the charity of a very devout and caring priest. Now bear in mind that this is a true, historically documented account.

Approximately 200 years after the birth of Christ, a meeting of the elders of a little church in Myra, Turkey had just been called to order. They needed to appoint a bishop but no fitting candidate could be found. So great was the need that they decided to pray.

Out at sea, a ship battled a raging storm. The crew valiantly fought to keep it afloat. Trunks were being thrown overboard to lighten the load as frightened passengers held onto whatever they could to keep from being swept overboard while others huddled in their cabins. The ravaging waves tore some wood from the sides of the ship.

“Nicholas…NICHOLAS!” someone yelled frantically. It had been noised about that a man named Nicholas, who was known to be a man of God, was on board. Out of a cabin, in response to the call, came a man with a long white beard. Holding on to the rail of the tossing ship, he began to pray for the storm to cease. As he prayed he lifted his hands heavenward. Miraculously, the storm calmed. The crippled ship drifted into the harbor of Myra.

The elders of the little church in Myra suddenly stopped in the midst of their intense prayer, opened their eyes and looked around at each other, startled at a message from God that had come to each of them in the form of a vision; they were to appoint as their bishop, the first man named Nicholas who would, within the hour, enter the church to pray.

As the leaning ship hobbled into the port and was docked, Nicholas disembarked and made his way into the village to seek a church. He wanted to give thanks to God for His intervention during the storm that could have killed everyone on board.

Finding the church, he eagerly approached it. The heads of the elders turned toward the door as it slowly opened. The stately man with the snow-white beard entered, and, focused on the altar, made his way down to the front and knelt in a prayer of thanksgiving. As he rose to leave the elders approached him. “What is your name?” asked one. “Nicholas.” was the reply.

“God has sent you to us to be our new bishop,” said another. The group joyfully fitted the surprised Nicholas with a long red priestly robe and miter. Nicholas quickly became known as, “The Bishop of Miracles,” because of so many spectacular answers to his prayers.

Unlike most priests, Bishop Nicholas was wealthy through family inheritance. In his mind, wealth came from God and belonged to God. The very reason for his existence was to serve God. And that is how he lived his life.

Nicholas became increasingly concerned about a custom in Turkey. If little girls did not have a dowry so that they could marry, they would be sold into slavery, which included prostitution. Bishop Nicholas had given away most of his own fortune so he went about and managed to collect gold from admirers.

On December 6th, under cover of darkness, he wrapped the gold coins in several little bags and visited each home that had a daughter without a dowry, dropping a bag of gold through the windows of each, which landed on the hearth where the little girl’s clothes would be drying. When the gold was discovered the next morning, the family rejoiced. Their little daughters were saved from slavery.

Nicholas continued what was to become an annual tradition. Nobody knew the identity of the mysterious benefactor who would slip around the village on that date each year. On one such night, as Nicholas put his arm through the window to drop the bag of gold, instead of it landing on the hearth, the bag fell into a stocking that was hanging in front of the fireplace to dry. It was found the next morning, to the delight of the family. Which, by the way, is how the custom of hanging up Christmas stockings came to be.

Shortly before Nicholas’s death, which occurred on December 6th, the date of his annual visit, it was learned that he was the individual who brought so much joy to so many families.

Five hundred years later, in the 9th Century, Nicholas was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, hence the name, Saint Nicholas. And since the celebration of Christmas came after the life of St. Nicholas, he actually preceded Christmas, as we know it today.

As the story of St. Nicholas spread, French nuns in the 12th Century began making annual night-time visits to poor families with children, leaving fruit and nuts, which these families could not afford.

The nuns made their gift-giving rounds on what became known as, “St. Nicholas Eve,” December 5th. The tradition spread throughout the Old World and across the ocean to the New. Many people to this day celebrate Christmas on December 6th.

St. Nicholas became the Patron Saint of many countries including Russia, becoming a major ingredient in the Russian Christmas celebration. England made St. Nicholas, “Father Christmas.” Germany picked up on that title, and in France he became known as “Papa Noel.”

As the various forms of Nicholas began to emerge in the secular world over the years, some unanticipated problems arose: protests which came out of…the church! Martin Luther pounded his pulpit proclaiming that the true Christmas message was being lost by the Saint Nicholas connection.

The Dutch came to the rescue and adopted what they believed to be a more religious view of Nicholas that would satisfy the critics. The Dutch-German Protestant Reform Movement brought with it the idea that the Christ child should be the standard-bearer for Christmas. The German word for Christ child, “Christkindl,” evolved to, “Kris Kringle,” yet another version and another irritant for Luther.

In 1822, on the night before Christmas, which the world began to celebrate on December 24th, Clement Moore wrote a poem about the gift-giver for his six children. That poem, “The Night Before Christmas,” was published the following year in the Sentinel of Troy, New York. Up to that time, Nicholas had taken various forms. He was portrayed with a black beard, then a white beard. He was shown dressed in everything including buckskin.

Mr. Moore defined Nicholas once and for all and renamed him, Santa Claus. He had, no doubt, been influenced by the Dutch who named him, “Sinter (Saint) Klass (short for Nicholas) and that had become, “Sinterklass.”

Others who spoke broken English, knowing that gold had been found on the hearth by the fireplace, started a new legend. The gift-giver came down the chimney and would land in the cinders of burning embers, so they called him, “Cinder Klaussen,” which would in Moore’s hands become, Santa Claus.

Clement Moore’s poem made Santa famous. He even named the reindeer. Not only did he name them, he made them fly. He might have taken that idea from the poet, Washington Irving, who wrote a book in 1809 about a Dutch Colonist’s dream in which St. Nick came riding over the tops of trees in a wagon wherein he brings yearly presents to the children.

An artist named Thomas Nast, who was a Harper’s Weekly cartoonist, began to show what Santa looked like. He dressed him in red, which had been the official color of the priestly robes worn by St. Nicholas and went further by making Santa plump and jolly.

To show how much of a church connection to Santa there is, Clement Moore’s father was the Episcopal Bishop of New York, and, Clement Moore himself was Professor of Theology at Union Theological Seminary.

In 1897, a little girl named, Virginia Hanlon, had been told that there really was no Santa Claus. She was so disturbed about it that she wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Sun, whose name, by the way, was Francis P. Church…can’t get away from that connection. He responded with a story titled, “Yes Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus.” And the world breathed a sigh of relief.

It is interesting to note that the clearest image of Santa came not from the church, or from a poet, but by, of all things, a soft drink company advertisement! That drawing, known as ‘the Coca Cola Santa,’ created and drawn by Haddon Sundblom, made him totally definable. And the elves? Well, they were first seen in Ireland as Leprechauns.

St. Nicholas has been replaced by the created, Santa, who does indeed delight millions of children. But maybe through the hustle and bustle we have lost the very core of what Christmas is and should be; a time of love and sharing with people in need (whether we know them or not), rather than an orgy of gift giving, receiving, and thinking of one’s personal wants. I would like to see the original idea of giving and charity, as set forth by the real St. Nick, with nothing expected in return, brought back.

As for the commercialization of Christmas, there still is a bright side. It is the one time in the year where we can hear songs proclaiming the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, with others heralding the birth of The Holy Child, Jesus Christ our Savior coming through the loud speakers of the malls and shopping centers of the secular world (even though that is changing as the secular world is trying to strip all mention of Jesus Christ out of Christmas).

Homes are still decorated with lights to proclaim Him. And people are a little nicer to one another at least once a year. So maybe this commercialized version is better than having no celebration at all.

Extra Note: Since the first publication of this story, a Christmas war has been declared with the goal of making the word Christmas illegal. They are even trying to abolish Santa.

Check the link below regarding the Christmas wars with a brief personal message from Santa that will help put it all in perspective.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gZrY0U6NdA

Rev. Austin Miles is the author of the new book, God and Animals-What The Bible says about Animals and Heaven.

Available on AMAZON.

Info on New Animal Book Proving Animals Go to Heaven

http://www.capitolhilloutsider.com/new-animal-book-answers-the-question/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/179099344X

© Rev. Austin Miles

 

THE GIFT THAT TRULY KEEPS ON GIVING

NewsWithViews.com

But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; And may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You. —Psalm 5:11

Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the LORD be glad. —Psalm 105:3

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. —Matthew 2:10

Our Fallen Human Nature

There is no chicken little (the sky is falling) when you have Jesus. We rejoice because no matter our circumstances, the Lord is with us. Philippians 4:4.

As I write this, our newly elected president has not yet even taken his oath of office and people are deciding he’s not “draining the swamp” the way they expected him to do. There is no patience, no waiting on God, there is an immediate rush to judgment.

Stop it! Wait on the Lord! We believed our new president, now let’s see what he can do. Realize that he may make some mistakes! Haven’t we all!

Why is it that our fallen human nature immediately runs to negativity? Why is it that we immediately want to destroy any hope or promise God has given us? It’s our nature…that old sinful nature. And the Lord knows just exactly how we are! We so often fail to rest in HIM!

Remember Abraham and Sarah? The story starts in Genesis 11:30. The promise of God to Abraham would take twenty-five years to come to fulfillment. Of course, Abraham would never have known that it would take that long. He trusted God and knew that He would keep His word, and until then he must wait on the Lord. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to wait. Sometimes waiting for an answer to prayer is often part of the answer. We are far too impatient and want answers now, yet God in His gracious plan and purpose allows us to wait until His time.

Sadly, Abraham listened to his wife Sarah rather than waiting on God to do what He said he would do. Sarah thought she needed to help God, not understanding fully that with Him, all things are possible, and His promises are forever. Believers know the rest of this story.

Wait on the Lord, and wait on Him in prayer.

Rejoicing in Adversity

True joy comes from knowing the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and His Son, Messiah Jesus. Here is the true story of a Chinese pastor who was imprisoned for 18 years by the Communists because of his faith. Day after day, year after year, he was assigned to work in the prison camp’s cesspool.
Every morning he had to wade into that stinking hole and spend his day scooping out the human waste. He was given this job as a special punishment because he kept holding tenaciously to his faith.

The pastor was grateful for the assignment because of the solitude he had. The stench was so bad that even the guards stayed far away. So, the pastor had the freedom to pray aloud, sing hymns to the Lord, and recite Scripture. The cesspool had become a garden of communion with God. And what did he sing? In the Garden, by Charles A. Miles, a 1913 hymn.

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

Refrain:

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.
I’d stay in the garden with Him,
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

Out of the hardest of circumstances and worst of situations this man’s experience is a testimony of how God is in control no matter how horrible the situation might be.

If Pastor George Chen was willing to do all this to stand for his faith under such adversity; how can we even complain about the small adversities in our daily life?

Fire and Loss in East Tennessee

Drought struck our area this summer, with high temperatures and no rain. Our Smoky Mountains were timber waiting to burn. The fires started, caused from arson by two underage teens, burning 17,000 acres of the Smoky Mountains. In the tourist area of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, thousands of homes and businesses burned to the ground; the latest count is 14 dead. I’ve never seen a summer here so very hot and dry, not in the nearly 30 years we’ve lived here.

Tennessee is the Volunteer State, and rebuilding will take place, but the loss to so many is heartbreaking and devastating. The Fire Chief lost his own home while helping others. The Mayor of Gatlinburg lost his home as well as his resort which was extra income. Yet, their worries were all for their own people, and prayers for rain, which we received the next day. We rejoiced, and praised the Lord for His mercy.

Now comes the cleanup and the much-needed help. Dolly Parton is giving $1,000 a month to every family who lost their homes. This will go on for six months. She has also donated $1 million to help rebuild, and she has even bigger plans.

This is the buckle of the Bible belt, and the majority of people know the Lord, and trust in Him, even through tears and loss. One man lost his wife and two daughters, and has written a letter of forgiveness to the two teens, stating that this is what Jesus would have him do.

December is a huge tourist month for Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge. They’re back open, and beautifully decorated for the season, won’t you please come!

Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie was a Christian who, along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. She was imprisoned for her actions. She watched her sister, Betsy, die in Ravensbruck concentration camp.

In 1947 she had come from Holland to defeated Germany to give a talk about forgiveness. Everyone filed out in silence after her speech, and then a man walked up to her and asked her if she really meant what she said about
forgiveness. She saw the man as he had been, a guard at Ravensbruck who had watched her and her sister march by him naked as their clothes and shoes lay strewn in a pile on the floor.

She saw him and memories flashed in her mind. Her natural hatred and revulsion made her stiffen and she fumbled in her pocketbook. The former guard told her he had become a Christian and he reached out his hand to her. Corrie said that her arm felt like lead, and that she didn’t know if she could lift it.

She had told the audience of Germans, “When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.”

“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” the man said. “I was a guard there.

But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well Fräulein,”–again the hand came out– “will you forgive me?”
Corrie said she stood there, and she remembered what the Lord has said, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” She prayed, “Father, help me.”

Finally, her wooden arm reached up to grasp the man’s hand, and she said, “The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.”

“I forgive you, brother!” she cried. “With all my heart!” [Link]

The Birth of Our Savior

Christmas is here. The birth of our King of Glory is celebrated every year for one month of joyous preparation, and one special day reminding everyone of His gift to us. It is the season where we say, HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS! We rejoice in the knowledge of our amazing Salvation through Christ the King who came in the simplest and humblest of wrappings.

Jesus is God’s gift to all humanity. The perfect sinless gift. The gift of eternal life. The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords! The Lion of the Tribe of Judah!

Life is about what happens beyond the grave. Life is about knowing the God who made you and who gave you the greatest gift you will ever receive.
When you are shopping for gifts, when you are decorating your home, when you are baking and cooking, when you are opening those gifts from under the tree, when you are celebrating with family and friends, remember the perfect everlasting gift, the gift that truly keeps on giving, throughout our lives, and then into eternity.

Despite what we may live through, if we have the King of Glory in our lives, He is the blessed gift who holds us up in both joy and trials.

May your Christmas and your heart reflect the exultation of knowing Him and receiving His special gift. For it is by grace…