Philemon 1:6 | Psalm 17:1 | Matthew 6:4 | Luke 9:24

“Jolly Old Saint Nick” may not be terribly accurate.

It is kind of a shame that the rotund, red-suited, fur-trimmed version of Santa Claus has become the image of St. Nicholas in modern times. All indications are that the actual man was more like a Christian action hero than a jolly old elf.

If you have not already watched the Superbook Show episode “Nicholas”, do it now and learn some of who the Man Behind the Myth really was. You will see that he was a Christ-follower with a reputation for extreme commitment to his faith.

Saint Nicholas was known for acts of generosity. One time this involved throwing bags of gold through an open window in the middle of the night, so the recipient could pay his pressing debts and avoid dire consequences. That’s extreme, isn’t it?

And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.

Philemon 1:6 NLT

He was also known for taking action to ensure justice, once wrestling a sword from an executioner’s hand to save the wrongly condemned. Wow!

For the righteous Lord loves justice. The virtuous will see his face.

Psalm 17:1 NLT

Not only was he extremely generous, he did all his giving like a ninja. This caused him to become the Patron Saint of Stealth Giving.

Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Matthew 6:4 NLT

And perhaps most impressively, the real Saint Nicholas did not stop serving or worshipping Jesus when it became uncool. Even when faced with torture and imprisonment, Nicholas did not tap the brakes. Instead, he stayed hardcore, shifted gears, and kept the pedal all the way down. Why? Because he believed Jesus when he said:

If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 

Luke 9:24 NLT

So this Christmas, if you find yourself sitting down to write a letter to the north pole, take a moment to compare that Saint Nick with the Real Deal you just learned about. Do you think he’s hanging with pointy-eared friends, sipping hot chocolate and petting reindeer? Or is he somewhere higher, dressed in blinding white, praising the reigning King of Heaven?

Questions for Group Discussion

  • How does it make you feel to think of Saint Nicholas as an extreme hero of the faith, as opposed to the traditional notion of Santa Claus? Is it less magical? Or more?
  • Do you think the story of Saint Nicholas belongs as part of Christmas celebrations? Why, or why not?

Challenge: Be the Santa

Have you ever wanted to be Santa Claus? Why not do one better, and be Saint Nicholas?

What you will need to do:

  • Read up on the real Saint Nicholas to learn more about who he was, and why we remember him.
  • Pray, asking God to enable you to trust him the way Saint Nicholas did.
  • Try an act of extreme generosity. (But be safe!)
  • Remember: don’t publish your exploits.