Kris Kringle is coming to town

Ho, Ho. Ho, it’s time for Santa Claus to slide down the chimney neatly placing the last-minute gifts under the tree for the kiddies to excitedly tear into early Monday morning. Your sleep may be disturbed as the reindeer come to an abrupt stop on the roof. You’ve left gluten-free cookies and a can of Diet Pepsi for his nourishment of the long night travels from the north pole and around the world. Or, as it’s very cold and snowy outside, you may have left a shot of rum and a tub of hot chocolate.

Oh, but where did this traditional spirit of the holiday come from? And why?

This tradition had its start way back to what is now Turkey in the year 270, when a young man became rich from his father’s estate, who gave much of that to the homeless living on the street corners, to the poor children and to anyone in need which elevating him to fame. He secretly gave of his wealth wanting nothing in return ever conscious of the needs of others earning him the honor of a Saint of the Church. He was Bishop Nicholas.  During the council of Nicaea the church leaders were debating the nature of the trinity, when Nicholas slapped the face of another bishop who taught that Jesus was not equal with God the Father. The Roman ruler Constantine stripped Nicholas of his position and had him thrown in jail for such a breach of decorum.

As a bishop, Nicholas, servant of God, was first and foremost a shepherd of the people, caring for their needs. His active pursuit of justice for his people was demonstrated when he secured grain in time of famine, saved the lives of three men wrongly condemned, and secured lower taxes for Myra. He taught the Gospel simply, so ordinary people understood, and he lived out his faith and devotion to God in helping the poor and all in need. [1]

Another story of the life of Saint Nicholas goes like this:

There was a poor man who had three daughters. The man was so poor that he did not have enough money for a dowry, so his daughters could not marry. One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and into the house. The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry. [2]

For several hundred years, circa 1200 to 1500, St. Nicholas was the unchallenged bringer of gifts and the toast of celebrations centered around his day, December 6. The strict saint took on some aspects of earlier European deities, like the Roman Saturn or the Norse Odin, who appeared as white-bearded men and had magical powers like flight. He also ensured that kids toed the line by saying their prayers and practicing good behavior.” But after the Protestant Reformation, saints like Nicholas fell out of favor across much of northern Europe.

In early America German and Austrian immigrants to America brought the name Kris Kringle (Christ King) to be the giver of gifts. [2]

Later on, some Dutch families gathered together on December 5th 1773,.to honor the anniversary of the death of “Sinter Klass”, their nickname for Saint Nicholas. [3]

In 1822 Clement Clarke Moore wrote “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” also known as “The Night Before Christmas.”

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads,

. . . . .

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight-
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

And on and on the legend grows over the years, adapts to new additions and traditions, to what we now have without a whimper: a grandfatherly figure with full beard dressed in red that’s trimmed in white fur, calf length black boots and wearing a red cap trimmed in white, now ringing the bell in front of stores from Thanksgiving on. Other Santa’s are at the mall having children sit on his lap whispering what they want for Christmas.

On the eve of Christmas, Santa is sitting in a sleigh pulled by Rudolf along with Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen, On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem; To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!” and across the skies he goes bringing gifts to the well-behaved children because he knows who’s naughty or nice.

We do like our traditions.

So, what’s does all this have to do with the real reason of the season that’s buried under our beloved traditions?  God sent His Only Son to be born to the virgin Mary, in a manger because there was no room in the Inn. Since our lives are limited to this physical world, the creator Almighty God came to us: a human just like the rest of us, one who we could physically see, feel, hear, touch and smell. God’s act of redemption to all of humanity has begun with that Immaculate Conception of Jesus.

History has recorded it for us all.

Another scene we prepare for are the extended family gatherings, a time of refreshing memories, of good will to others, of blessing others with gifts, of the admiration of sparkling lights, of sending cards of Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. When that time of sitting at the dinner table comes, read together Luke 2:1-20.

 

[1] http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/bishop-of-myra/

[2] https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/fatherchristmas.shtml

[3] http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/santa-claus

[4] https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131219-santa-claus-origin-history-        christmas-facts-st-nicholas/

Merry X-mas

Yes, that was the headlines the media besieged us with not that long ago.

Now it’s Happy Holidays.

The schools do not instruct the students that their coming time away from the classroom has something to do with the birth of the Savior, Jesus the Christ becoming one of us. No, that’s left up to the parents. We walk the malls and see tinsel, wreaths and green artificial trees decorated with balls of holly, and perhaps a store just might have a nativity set in the display window as we quickly pass by, or another may have boxes of miniature or large outdoor nativity sets for sale. Hallmark cards may have scenes of the nativity, may have Merry Christmas on the front with best wishes for the Holiday Season inside. The gift giving spirit has been dominating since Thanksgiving. We’ve purchased our live evergreen tree and carefully hung the hundreds of ornaments, wreaths and strings of lights blinking to one of a dozen patterns, and finally a star has been placed on top. We check the water daily. It’s ready for the presents, some held back for the kids to open the morning of the 25th.

xmastree-times-square-nyny
Times Square

Christmas themed movies appear throughout the cable guide devoted to an actor/actress achievement of their Santa wish: a long-ago love coming back into their life, the wish for the family reconciliation, a wish for this or that, one you secretly gave to the department store Santa years ago. All heartwarming stories that touch us. Some that are humorous. Clean wholesome movies the family can enjoy together.

Santa Claus is everywhere; ringing the bell in front of the grocery store, at the center of the department store, as another Santa in the center of the mall has children lined up ready to sit on his lap. Santa is selling cars, furniture, and cell-phones on TV.

Neighborhood homes have lights strung around the roofs, artificial snow and a full-sized snowman or Santa on a sleigh on the front lawn, some nativity sets here and there. On a roof is Rudolf leading the Santa sled with piles of presents. Churches have the nativity sets and a few here and there may have actors dressed as Joseph and Mary around the nativity scene. To attract the kiddies some may have Santa with a backpack filled with presents. This year the date falls on a Monday, so the churches will be full on Sunday enjoying the choir singing, the band may play Silent Night, and the pastor reads the story of the reason for the season. All is well, Jesus was born as a child in Bethlehem.

Yes, this is the Christmas season society has developed for us over the years.

In America, we have that freedom. Other places penalize Christmas displays of any kind.

Our creator God looked down upon this marvelous creation over the years interacting with various humans throughout our natural history for a way to redeem His most important part of creation. God saved Noah and his family from the wrath of the flood to start over desiring that they act according to the original idea of honoring the Creator and worshiping Him alone in spirit and truth. History records that we humans failed to obey those commandments again. So, the time has come, God declares one last act of compassionate mercy by sending a part of Himself to inhabit a human body, to live and grow up among other humans sharing in their lives, to teach and to demonstrate the majestic creative and sustaining powers to the likes of us all.

Since we are limited in our vision to this physical world, God became one of us.

We failed all in the past, so now this is the final gift, the last hope, a final way for His family of man to accept the loving merciful forgiveness of our sins of disobedience being redeemed and the gift of a new spiritual life to honor, worship and obey.

Merry Christmas.

Thanks Giving

This Thanksgiving day, I give  thanks for those way back in history who recoded their events and thoughts by engravings on the walls of caves, on papyrus, the invention of paper, the typewriter, newspapers and books, the Bible so that now we have records to read and understand more fully our heritage. For William Bradford coming up with the idea of private property and control leading the way to that great experiment of personal liberty and prosperity for all: our constitution.

 

 

Happy Holidays

Here we are, Thanksgiving 2017 is fast approaching. And then Christmas. The stores are overloaded with all the ingredients for a happy thanksgiving and Merry X-mas. The commercials are humming. TV’s a glittering with weather updates for anywhere. News shows the airports jammed, shows us the latest crime scenes, where the detours are, so beware folks, but have a happy thanksgiving and merry whatever anyway.

first-thanksgiving painting

Painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863-1930)

Huh? Happy Holidays. Gads. The pressure. Family gatherings. Trips. Be Happy. Be thankful, Macy’s having a parade. Keep the kiddies busy. Pies to bake. Get the stuff down from the attic. Cooking or going out, yeah, let’s go out. It’s too much. Where are those pills.

How can anyone be happy with all this bombarding us in front of our face and behind our back?

And yet, we do provide a happy face.

Do we take time to reflect, to think of the What, the Who, the Where and When all this holiday season started and Why.

Some parts of the world are not so joyful this time of year, so why are we? Yes, it’s our American heritage dedicated to individual freedoms over and above that of kings and queens, presidents and magistrates. “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” But are we about to lose all that as society appears to be elevating self-gratification over virtuousness.

George Washington wrote, “Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people.”

Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.”

Patrick Henry said, “A vitiated [impious] state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom.”

Virtue as defined by Webster is:

  1. .moral excellence; goodness; righteousness.
  2.  conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles; uprightness; rectitude.
  3. .chastity; virginity: to lose one’s virtue.
  4. .a particular moral excellence.
  5. . a good or admirable quality or property: the virtue of knowing one’s weaknesses.

Philippians 4:8 (KJV)

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

 

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