I know this story isn’t precisely new to Cathologosphere, but frankly, it’s irresistible. During the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (AD 325) there was a big argument over the divinity of Christ. Arius — a heretic — was of the idea that Christ was not divine, but rather a mere creature. The Council gave him leave to speak, to defend his claims, and he did, yammering on — I have no doubt — in a relentless flood of sophistry.
Jolly Old St. Nicholas — oh yes, he was a bishop — wasn’t having any of it. He tried to listen patiently, he really did, but Arius’ speech was just so wrong, that he was compelled to get up in the midst of it and, yep, punch him in the face.
I hold that this is the image of Santa Claus we need to reclaim. Because when you think about it, this was the original campaign to Put the Christ Back in Christmas. Arius would have made the nativity a non-event (woop-de-freakin-doo everyone, God made something else). He, majestically prefiguring the various sects of Happy-Holiday-ers, Winter Solstice-ers, and it’s-actually-a-pagan-holiday-ers (that’s the point, you muppets!) denied that Christmas need be a celebration of substance at all. So when the modern world promotes the consumerist image of Santa Claus over the image of Christ, it is not so much the wrath of Christ they should fear as it is the wrath of Santa Claus. He may very well climb down the chimney and wup yo ass.
Christmas is about this singular, terrible reality: That the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. In the spirit of St. Nick; accept no substitute.
All of which leads me to the belief that our Christmas carols need to be rewritten in light of the Grand Punch of St. Nicholas. It wouldn’t be too hard, we could sing: “Jolly Old St. Nicholas/Lend your fist this way,” ”I saw Dawkins rocked by Santa Claus/flying from the podium last niiighht,” and of course, ”He sees when you’re dissenting/he knows when you’ve blasphemed/he knows your schismatic doctrines/and so he’s gonna punch your face/Oh, you better not doubt/You better not divide/You better not bring scandal to the Holy Roman Catholic Church/I’m telling you why/Saaaanta Claus is smacking you down,” etc. etc.
So thank you St. Nicholas, for your inspired punch. Oh I almost forgot the end of the story. I’ll let Taylor Marshall, who writes over at Cantebury Tales tell it:
Now if that were the end of the story, we probably wouldn’t know about Saint Nicholas, and our children wouldn’t be asking him for presents. However, after Nicholas was deposed, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Nicholas who was being held in a prison cell for his fist-fight with the heretic.
Our Lord 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. Next, the Blessed Virgin vested Nicholas with his episcopal pallium, thus restoring him to his rank as a bishop.
All in all, St. Nicholas is the man. In the spirit of Patheos Book Club’s recent review of Between Heaven and Mirth, I am opening up the combox for a) hilarious captions to the above picture, and b) giddily mirthful corrections of Santa-Claus-related christmas songs in light of his most excellent and inspiring triumph over heresy. The most funniest gets a prize.