Yes, Virginia, There is a St. Nicholas

You must read Pastor William Cwirla’s version of the “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” classic. A sample from Yes, Virginia, There is a St. Nicholas:

Dear Virginia,
What, no Santa Claus?  Why there might as well be no angels and archangels!  No shepherds and wise men!  No Joseph and Mary!  No infant Jesus in the manger!  No cross and empty tomb!  No Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!  No church, no communion of saints, no forgiveness of sins!
But of course, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!  Oh, I don’t mean those silly old santas you see in the shopping malls wearing those funny red and white suits and bushy beards.  Those are make-believe Santas.  They’re for fun.  I’m talking about the real Santa Claus.  His real name is Saint Nicholas.  St. Nicholas lived in the 4th century in a town called Myra in what today is the country of Turkey.  We don’t really know very much about St. Nicholas.  We’re not even sure exactly what he looked like.  He probably had a long beard.  We know he didn’t wear a silly red and white suit.  He probably wore black most of the time.  His clothes probably looked something like what your pastor wears on Sunday morning in the Liturgy.
You see, St. Nicholas was a bishop.  A bishop is a pastor in charge of all the churches in his town.  He makes sure that everyone is well cared for and that his pastors are teaching people true things about God from the Bible.  St. Nicholas especially was concerned for all the poor widows and orphans in his city.  If they didn’t have shoes, he’d bring them shoes.  If they didn’t have a blanket to keep them warm at night, he’d give them a blanket.  If they needed food, he’d bring them food.  If they needed a place to sleep for the night, he let them sleep in the church.  He was always looking for poor people to help, especially little children who had no parents.
The real St. Nicholas didn’t worry so much about whether children were naughty or nice.  He knew that all children are both naughty and nice, sometimes at the same time.  So are adults.  He also knew that Jesus died for everyone, the naughty and the nice.  St. Nicholas wanted everyone to believe that.  He didn’t keep any kind of list that he checked over twice, except maybe a list of all the people in his congregation who needed some kind of help.  He was careful about making sure that people knew how much God loved them by showing them his love.  If you looked at St. Nicholas and saw how much he loved other people, you could see the love of Jesus shining through him.
You see, Virginia, St. Nicholas loved Jesus very much, and he knew that Jesus loved him.  He believed that Jesus was his best friend in the whole world and his Savior.  St. Nicholas knew that because Jesus suffered and died for him, he would live forever with Jesus.  He knew that Jesus became poor so that we might be rich in heavenly treasures.  That’s why he was always doing good things for poor people.  He wanted to show them the love of Jesus from his own heart.
St. Nicholas worshiped Jesus much the same way that we worship Jesus every Sunday.  He preached God’s Word and celebrated the Lord’s Supper with his people.  He preached sermons about Jesus, just as your pastor does, Virginia.  Sometimes the children in St. Nicholas’ church got a little restless and noisy, but St. Nicholas didn’t seem to mind that.  He was so happy that the children were there with their parents to hear about Jesus that he just kept on preaching anyway.  He told people how God sent His Son to be born of the Virgin Mary, how he suffered for their sins under Pontius Pilate, how he died on a cross and was buried to save everyone from death and hell, how He rose from the dead three days later and now reigns as our Redeemer, and how Jesus is going to appear very soon to take us to live with Him forever.  Many people believed in Jesus because of St. Nicholas’ preaching.  That made St. Nicholas happy.
St. Nicholas wasn’t always jolly.  When people didn’t believe in Jesus or made fun of him, St. Nicholas became very sad.  Sometimes he even cried when some people in his city never came to church.   When people said bad things about Jesus, St. Nicholas would get very angry.  One time, a fellow bishop named Arius said some bad things about Jesus.  Arius said that Jesus wasn’t really God.  That made St. Nicholas very upset.  You see, St. Nicholas loved Jesus so much, he couldn’t stand to hear such awful things.
Some good bishops got together with St. Nicholas and wrote what we call the Nicene Creed.  It’s the same Creed we say together in church every Sunday.  Just think, Virginia, when you say the Creed, St. Nicholas is saying it with you!  It makes him very happy to hear little children say the Creed by heart.  St. Nicholas is always jolly and happy when children love Jesus and confess Him.

Show this to your children! (The rest of the letter says that Santa does NOT bring you gifts, so beware if you are still playing that game, but this may be a good way to break the news.)

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Theresa K.

    I see no conflict for a Christian in children believing that Santa Claus brings them a gift, as long as its not the focus of Christmas. I robbed my first child of the Santa experience, but had a change of heart when she was five. She went along with her younger brother’s complete belief in Santa and we enjoyed a few years of throwing cat food up on our snow-covered roof (expands to reindeer droppings). Both remain firm believers in Christ as older teens.

  • Andy Adams

    This is good but it leaves out my favorite St. Nicholas story – the one about him literally slapping Arius in the face at the Council of Nicea. He, of course, was made to apologize for this outburst, but I have always thought it showed moxie!

    I have always wondered if this story is not echoed in the movie “Miracle of 34th Street.” Maybe I am stretching here, but Chris Kringle gets in trouble for slapping a “non-believer” (in Santa Claus that is) who is mocking him. I always thought it showed that in some sense, we moderns can never get away from the tendrils of our past. May be I am being too romantic.

  • Carl Vehse

    It would be unfortunate if devotion to the fairy tales of Santa Claus (originally “Sinterklaas” in Dutch) were replaced with a devotion to fairy tales of St. Nicholas. According to Charles W. Jones’ book, Saint Nicholas of Myra, Bari, and Manhattan: Biography of a Legend (University of Chicago Press, 1978, 558 pp), the historicity of Nicholas of Myra is not that certain. Even if it were true that Nicolas was a real person who lived in the 4th century, other than possibly being the Bishop of Myra, there is little else known about the man’s life. What does, in fact, exist is the cornucopia of legends, developed in subsequent centuries, some even carved into statues. Of course the final morphed legend, with help from Washington Irving and perhaps Henry Livingston (instead of Clement Clarke Moore), was the figure we know today as “Santa Claus.”

    I am also wary of promoting historically ethereal characters as exemplars of Christian devotion and behavior, particularly in educating children. After all, there’s hardly a shortage of real historical saints and their real examples from which to chose.

  • cmg

    Well, I’m just glad we have Carl to keep us straight on which saints are “real” and which aren’t. (That’s sarcasm, btw) To you Mr. Vehse, I say: Bah humbug!

  • The Scylding

    Humbug indeed!

    Of course, the attack on “Fairy Tale” characters is often one and the same as the attack on any Belief system which requires / invokes the Supernatural.

    The attack on St Nick smacks of Enlightment Rationalism. Chesterton and Lewis had much to say about that….

    Of course, many confessing the Faith have sold out to Rationalism ages ago. The attack on imagination is NOT a Christian one….

  • Carl Vehse

    The attack on imagination is NOT a Christian one….”

    Whoa! Unbunch your shorts, Scylding (a legendary term itself).

    Just who’s attacking imagination? Or “fairy tale” characters?!

    My warning was about the danger of confusing imaginary persons with real persons, or merging imaginary and real events.

    I hope you will not burn your coonskin cap if I note that while Davy Crockett was a real person, he didn’t kilt him a b’ar when he was only three.

  • Michael the little boot

    “My warning was about the danger of confusing imaginary persons with real persons, or merging imaginary and real events.”

    This is difficult. It’s hard enough convincing people Christopher Columbus didn’t believe the world was flat. We usually prefer our stories to reality.