The Backstory of Saint Nick
GCI President Update | December 2021
Sitting in my mother’s living room on a quiet Christmas morning, I began paging through a book of Christmas devotionals. To my surprise, these stories were written by Hank Hanegraaff, a Christian author known as “The Bible Answer Man,” and a close friend and ally to GCI.
Let me read the opening to the story from The Heart of Christmas… (Book in hand) Can Santa Claus Be Saved?
Believe it or not, even Santa can be saved! Far from being a dangerous fairy tale, Santa Claus in reality is an Anglicized form of the Dutch name Sinter Klaas, which in turn is a reference to Saint Nicholas, a Christian bishop from the fourth century. According to tradition, Saint Nick not only lavished gifts on needy children, but also valiantly supported the doctrine of the Trinity at the Council of Nicea in AD 325. While the word Trinity–like incarnation–is not found in Scripture, it aptly codifies what God has condescended to reveal to us about His nature and being.
Santa Claus – St Nicholas – was a good Christian man who served others and believed in the Father, Son and Spirit. Makes you think differently about some of the songs we sing and how we parallel them to what we know – or should I say, who we know? Who Christmas is really about.
In the Lyrics – Santa Claus is coming to town they almost get it right…
He’s making a list, He’s checking it twice,
It’s not two lists, naughty and nice. It’s one list. Unlike Santa who’s checking behavior – naughty or nice – Jesus opens up THE BOOK OF LIFE or THE LAMB’S BOOK OF LIFE, which is the record of humanity saved by Jesus. God didn’t send Jesus to check on our behavior; God so loves the world he sent his only Son to save and include humanity (this is what Hank Hanegraaff referred to as “The Incarnation”).
Back to the lyrics…
He sees you when you’re sleeping and he knows when you’re awake
This isn’t to check-up on us, this is to let us know he is always with us. He is always loving us.
The Psalmist asks the important question, WHERE CAN I GO FROM YOUR SPIRIT?
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
The Apostle Paul amplifies this same concept in his letter to the Romans when he says that nothing can separate us from the Love of Jesus. We are absolutely secure in the presence of the Spirit and enveloped in the love of Jesus.
Back to the song…
He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake
Certainly, he wants us to be nice over naughty, and good over bad. Why? So we can fully experience his peace and joy and hope and love. Something we can’t experience on our own, or by focusing on our behavior.
WE CAN ONLY DO THIS WITH CHRIST IN US. It’s his goodness and righteousness that transforms us.
Maybe a new look at Saint Nick isn’t a bad idea. Especially if we think about Bishop Saint Nicholas who provided for the needy and stood firm for the amazing Triune God at the Christianity-shaping council of Nicea. May we follow his good example. At the same time, may we stay focused on what Christmas is about.
Christmas is about the Father sending his beloved son Jesus. The Spirit overshadowing Mary for what is known as the immaculate conception. And Jesus taking on flesh and blood; the divine becoming human for the purpose of saving fallen humanity.
All in all, Christmas is the story of the incredible Triune God showing love to his created sons and daughters, to sweep us up into his life and love. Christmas is a time of hope, of joy, of peace, and of love.
Church, please realize that you are already on God’s “good list,” and not only does he see you when you’re sleeping and awake, he saturates you with his unending love 24/7! That’s who he is.
Rejoice and celebrate in the divine love of Christmas. A very happy and merry Christmas from me and Susan, and all of your friends at the Home Office.