by Rev. Fr. V.V. Paulose, Toronto, Canada
"God has given a son to us." (Isaiah 9:6)
Is Santa Claus dead?
A grade one student of a Catholic school told the class that Santa is not real and that he had died a long time back. Is it really true? Santa represents the giver of gifts. The greatest gift of God is that He himself descended on earth as a child and died for us to save us from sin and death. That gift never becomes obsolete, outdated or lifeless, has no wear and tear, and will always stay with us. But the world where we live is moving very fast to snub and smother the babe, the greatest gift from God and wishes to see him dead. Even wishing 'Merry Christmas' is banned at the main airport in Manila to avoid the impression that the officers are soliciting Christmas gifts and tips from passengers. Instead, the officers are asked to smile and greet them. To meet the needs of the living is the real gift. Christmas is the time to give and share.
History of Santa Claus:
The story of Saint Nicholas is the story of a man of God who loved his neighbours and was ready to help them in any way that he could. He was truly a more than worthy ancestor of Santa Claus. He was born around the year 275 and lived in Lycia, now a part of Turkey. When he was 13, his parents died during a plague. God elevated him as a priest and then as a Bishop.
There was a widowed nobleman who had fallen from riches to poverty and had no money to marry his three daughters. The eldest daughter decided to sell herself as a slave in order to raise money for her sisters' dowries. Nicholas heard about the women's plight and decided to help them. Secretly, in the night, he lowered a small bag of gold through an open window of the eldest daughter's room which helped the family tide over their crisis.
In the time of the persecution of Christians by Diocletian, Saint Nicholas refused to budge. When Roman soldiers destroyed sacred books and the churches, he said, "Churches may fall, but Christians will stand." He was put in prison and it was during the reign of Constantine that he was freed and returned as Bishop of Myra. He continued his work of helping the poor till his death on December 6th, 343.
As early as the 12th century, Saint was credited with giving gifts to good children. He left them shoes, stockings, and paper boats as gifts. He came to be known under different names - Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Grandfather Frost etc. The people of Holland still call him Sinterklass. In the 17th century, they brought the legend with them when they settled in New York. Some historians claim that Santa is the descendent of Saint Nicholas of the Dutch. Some say it is the invention of the Americans. It was Cartoonist Thomas Nast who added the visual dimension.
Yes, Santa is dead when we stop meeting the needs of the needy.
Jesus, the real gift of Christmas, stay with us, provide food and clothes for the needy, water for the thirsty, love for the unloved, and heal the sick. All we ask in the name of Jesus.
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