Santa Claus, Confessor

St. Nicholas was the bishop of Myra back in the 4th century.  He has become one of the most popular saints among Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox, the patron saint of sailors, children, prisoners, pawnbrokers, to name just a few.  He also mutated into the emblem of Christmas, Santa Claus.  (Say “Saint Nicholas” real fast.)

But what is the connection between the bishop of Myra and Christmas?  Stories about the saint supplying poor women’s dowries by putting money in stockings drying by the fire give us an explanation of the custom of hanging stockings for Santa to fill, but they don’t have a connection to Christmas, as such.

I think the connection is that the bishop was reportedly a member of the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., which affirmed the deity of Jesus Christ and authored the Nicene Creed.  A number of years ago, I wrote a piece for World Magazine about the role that St. Nicholas reportedly played at the Council of Nicaea, including slapping the heretic Arius who insisted that Jesus Christ was merely human and not divine.

The St. Nicholas Center has posted that column on its website, along with other supporting material and everything else you might like to know about St. Nicholas, including a forensic reconstruction of what he looked like. I also need to report that the St. Nicholas center has also posted the song parodies written by you Cranach commenters when we discussed my World column here.  Those songs, playing on the image of Santa Claus slapping heretics, were quite creative and funny.

After the jump is a fuller account of St. Nicholas at Nicaea, which I will then discuss in terms of our need to recast Santa Claus as a Confessor of the church. [Read more…]

He has come to you

The word “advent” derives from the past participle form of venire, the Latin word for “to come,” plus ad, which means “to.”  So the term literally means “has come to.”  The season of Advent, which we have now entered, means that Jesus “has come to” us, to you. [Read more…]

The Communion of the Saints

The body consists of innumerable cells.  Each of these has its own distinct life–its own systems of nutrition, reproduction, and protection–and yet these cells group together to form highly specialized organs that, in turn, make up a single body.  The whole scheme, with its incredibly complex relationship of the parts to the whole and the whole to the parts, is astonishing to contemplate.  And the makeup of the body is the Bible’s explanation for the Church and for the relationship each Christian has with the others. This is the “Communion of the Saints” that we celebrated yesterday on All Saints Day. [Read more…]

The “all’s” of the Great Commission

More from Knut Tveitereid in Oslo:  I love it when Bible expositors mine riches out of a text by attending to the details of the language.  Knut discussed the importance of the four “all’s” in the Great Commission:

 And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, [another “all” word in Danish] to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)

[Read more…]

Jesus of Galilee, Jesus of Jerusalem, Jesus post-resurrection

The other speaker at the Inner Mission youth ministry conference in Oslo, in addition to me, was Knut Tveitereid, who teaches at the NLA University College, a Christian and Lutheran university in Norway.  He spoke about the different approaches to discipleship and what it means to follow Jesus.  He said that we can distinguish three distinct, but related ministries of Jesus:  Jesus of Galilee, Jesus of Jerusalem, and the post-resurrection Jesus. [Read more…]

Vengeance, competition, and Christianity

Some time ago, I stumbled upon a discussion of Christian anthropologist Rene Girard and Pay Pal founder Peter Thiel.  It had to do with vengeance, competition, new technology start ups, and why both Girard and Thiel came to embrace Christianity. [Read more…]


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