Santa or Saint?

My daughter is having a little trouble adjusting to first grade, and hence she has been put on a behavior plan where we get a daily report on her behavior so that she can slowly start to improve. Now this is just typical childhood growing, and not a need for SuperNanny to swoop in and fix anything. The problem here is not her behavior, but that I later discovered that she was worried about what Santa would think. The first thing that occurred to me is that she was more worried about Santa’s good opinion than she was of her parents, teacher or even Jesus.
I heard this from grandparents moments after we decided not to use a reward-based incentive plan to help her correct her behavior. It struck me that Santa Claus is a reward-based behavior plan. We use the promise of an extra gift and a sock full of goodies once a year as an incentive for good behavior. I don’t know why we bother with the ruse since I have never heard of a parent actually giving their beloved child a lump of coal or a switch. This experience convicted me and I had to take some time and study Santa Claus, the man overshadowing Christmas.
I went and started researching Saint Nicholas, the bishop of Myra, who inspired the myth of Santa Claus. Since his death, Saint Nicholas has become the patron saint of sailors, ships, children, and those wrongfully imprisoned. He was known as the Wonderworker for the many miracles he performed in the name of Christ. It is said that he fed a town during a draught from a small measure of grain that never seemed to run out. That he saved the lives of those being persecuted under the reign of Emperor Diocletian. That he provided dowries for young women to marry, so that they would not be sold into slavery. This doesn’t sound like Santa Claus.
This influential follower of Jesus Christ was exiled, imprisoned and suffered for his faith in Jesus Christ. Although he was born wealthy, he used his entire fortune providing for the needy. He attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 where he struck Arias of Alexander for questioning the divinity of Jesus, was stripped of his position as bishop and imprisoned again. Do we really think that this man of devotion would be pleased to contribute to a cultural belief that has turned Christmas into a child’s desire for the blessing of a toy?
So with prayer, study, and the counsel of other Christians, I have decided that Santa Claus is not being invited to our house this year. I explained to my daughter that I don’t care what some man at the North Pole thinks of her behavior, that her momma will buy her Christmas presents because I love her when she is nice and when she is naughty. Jesus Christ loves her no matter what and His gift is for her if she gets a stamp on her paper or not. Surprisingly, my daughter agreed.
This year we are moving Christmas out of Santa Claus’s shadow and focusing on what is really important. We are going to follow the example of St. Nicholas, and celebrate Jesus Christ. We are going to give more than we receive and become a blessing in the lives of other people. This holiday we are going to celebrate our real gift giver, the baby born so that all men might be saved.
Santa Claus, for some, replaces the Babe of Bethlehem;
St. Nicholas, for all, points to the Babe of Bethlehem.

– J. Rosenthal & C. Meyers

St. Nicholas Center