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some quick thoughts on Santa Claus

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

Just a thought as we get into Christmas proper:

The original St. Nick was a 3rd century orphan from Turkey. Actually a Lycia, but from the area that would become Turkey. His most famous act of generosity was to anonymously give away a good portion of his inheritance to save three sisters from sexual slavery. As Adam English recently pointed out, he wasn’t an ascetic like St. Anthony of Egypt who lived for years in the desert and only ate the occasional morsel of bread. He was a comparatively rich man for his time. But he gave generously when he saw people in need.

And he punched Arius in the face at the Council of Nicea. Arius just sat there saying what Nicholas considered a lie, and he got so enraged he physically assaulted the guy. It was the fourth-century version of Wittgenstein’s poker. As much as I hate physical violence, and as much of a closet Arian as I am in some regards, that’s actually pretty awesome. Peter Enns over at Patheos recently called him a beast, and I think he’s pretty well spot on there. “Mother Teresa, Oskar Schindler, and Samuel L. Jackson all rolled into one.” I can dig it.

I’m thinking about this because I bought some pairs of fuzzy socks for some kids in my building. I’m baking spice cookies and giving a few small gifts and chocolates to some kids I know in the neighborhood, in honor of Nikolaustag, a major holiday in Germany and the Netherlands. What I love so much about the historical St. Nicholas is he seems to strike the balance between the consumeristic orgy you see in America and the proper place of generosity and gift-giving. Also that he didn’t go around bragging about his generosity – he just saw a need and used the wealth at his disposal to meet it. I have my qualms about charity and the kinds of injustice that make charity necessary always make me a littl squeakish about praising the generous too much. Still, when I think about folks who are doing charity right, St. Nicholas is at the top of the list.

Also, that he punched a man in the face over doctrine. Because even a pacifist like me thinks that’s pretty awesome.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 5th, 2012 04:28 am (UTC)
Great to be reminded of the real Santa Claus.Thanks for sharing.
Dec. 5th, 2012 06:20 am (UTC)
Somehow something of the original St. Nick seems to linger in even the sappiest most commercialized and watered-down modern versions of Santa Claus, peeking through the silliness to show warmth, generosity, humor, and spunk. He's managed to get people think it's better to give than receive for centuries.

When you think about it, that's quite a feat for someone who's been gone for 1600 years.
Dec. 5th, 2012 12:33 pm (UTC)
We even get half a day off, if work allows...
Dec. 5th, 2012 03:36 pm (UTC)
We just wrapped up 3 weeks of St Nicholas celebrations, gatherings, putting the shoe at the fireplace, singing St Nick songs ect ect. Both are now happily playing with their gifts, after they sang their thank you songs. The sackcloth bags have been put in the fireplace so that St Nick's helper can pick them up when the kids are asleep ;c)

The school has another project that will be finished before Christmas: shoe buddies. They asked us to fill a shoe box with all kinds of stuff a child from a 3rd world country or country torn apart by war will get (stuff like pencils, writing journal, a toy, a comb or toothbrush). So we keep on giving in the spirit of the season.

Edited at 2012-12-05 03:36 pm (UTC)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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