Yes Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus.
Or there was.
The Santa we know and love was called Nicholas (280? – 343 AD). He preached, taught, and served in Myra, a sizable town on the southern coast of Turkey. He loved his church, his community, and his Jesus.
But the most compelling things about Santa Claus aren’t his chimney-sliding skills, wrapping abilities, or his fondness for nordic reindeer. Before all the tinsel and egg nog, Santa was a pretty incredible guy who did remarkable things in the world of children’s and youth ministry.
Santa was a ministry rockstar.
#1 Nicholas stood for gospel clarity
In the early 4th century, there were quite a few aspiring heretics on the scene. These false teachers saw the political influence of Christianity and wanted a piece of the action. One of the hot button issues was the divinity of Jesus. Was Jesus God? Or was He just a good teacher?
A charismatic young teacher named Arius was spreading the idea that Jesus wasn’t God, but rather was created by the Father. This might seem like minutiae, but to a fledgling church, this was (and still is) a big deal.
Church leaders called a council in 325 to hash this out.
Over 1800 leaders attended.
Nicholas was one of them.
At one point during the debates (which lasted 2 months), the pitch became so heated that Nicholas actually crossed the room and punched Arius in the face.
Santa punched a guy.
In the face.
Because of doctrine.
And you thought your business meetings were rough…
Most of us will never attend a doctrine-defining ecumenical council (and if you do, that’s no excuse to punch someone in the face). Our theological discussions happen in hallways, around breakfast tables, and in classrooms that smell oddly like crayons. That’s where doctrine, depth, and discipleship are formed.
Being well versed in doctrine is something every children’s and youth leader needs to be prepared for. Interestingly, questions or discussions about doctrine usually catch us off guard.
Christmas is naturally a time for reflection.
What better time of year to reflect on the essentials of the gospel? Take some time in the next few days to read through the following Scriptures. As you read, ask God to show you how you can make the gospel more prominent in this season:
2 Corinthians 5:17-18
Check out these resources about the historical St. Nicholas:
The St. Nicolas Center
Turning Points, Mark Noll
History Through the Eyes of Faith, Ronald Wells