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The Word on the Week

Santa Claus

The “ho ho ho’s” sound out from the High Street Stores and Shopping Malls proclaiming the presence of the fat gentleman in the red suit. He seems to arrive earlier each year having got himself mixed up with “Black Friday” this week.

Perhaps this is not inappropriate as the Bishop of Myra (today’s Demre in S-W Turkey) could well have been black. He was famed for his generosity to the poor. One legend has it that he dropped a purse of gold coins down the chimney of a poor man who had nothing to give for his daughter’s wedding dowry.

This may have something to do with the answer to the question, “Why does Father Christmas always go down the chimney?” “Because it soots him!” Sorry about that!

The feast of St Nicholas on 6th December 343 AD is the reason the Netherlands celebrate Sinterklaas annually on that day.

St Nicholas is well known in many parts of Europe and is the patron Saint of cities from Amsterdam to Aberdeen, Limerick to Liverpool and many more.

So what was it that made Santa Claus turn pale? Could it have something to do with the famous painting by the distinguished American artist Norman Rockwell? Commissioned by Coca-Cola the rotund jolly fat figure is portrayed in the company’s colours of red and white. No doubt the marketing men had a say in making his skin white – business trumps legend!

Of course when it comes down to filling stockings on the 24th December the age old criteria comes into play. Was Johnnie a good boy? Did Mary behave herself? The works = merit programme comes flying into their young lives on the back of reindeers pulling a load of goodies which are not destined for baddies!

It is all parcelled up to coincide with the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus whose life on earth was spent dispelling the myth that surrounds the Santa business.

When someone called Jesus good, he who alone merited that description said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (St Mark Chapter 10 verse 18).

This is why he came. As the Angel said at his birth, “She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give him the name Jesus (the name means saviour) because he will save his people from their sins” (St Matthew Chapter 1 verse 21).

It is not by Johnnie trying a bit harder to get better behaved. It is not by Mary trying to keep the commandments and lead a good life. But it is by both Johnnie and Mary stopping the fruitless efforts at trying to be good and trusting Jesus work on the cross when he exchanged our sins for his goodness which he now attributes to the believer.

So when Johnnie and Mary hang up their stockings this year it will be in the knowledge that they couldn’t be more loved or more secure than belonging to the family of God. The gifts they get remind them of the greatest gift of all, God’s gift of Jesus.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (St John’s Gospel Chapter 3 verse 16).

Jesus trumps Santa every time – trust Him.