Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus… If You Studied Your Church History

It’s that time of year again, where we worship the incarnation of God-become-man Jesus. Others, however, sing songs about a fat jolly man dressed in red who flies around the world in one night.

However, there good reasons to believe that there actually was a “Santa Claus”. He is much more than the Coca-Cola red north pole dweller; he actually existed and he served the cause of Christ.

Saint NicholasThere are no historical documents about Saint Nicholas and many of the tales told have been embellished – such as possible miracles – but there is enough evidence to say that he existed and helped people.

Nicholas is mostly known for his generosity:

In the most famous story about his life, he threw bags of gold through the windows of three girls about to be forced into lives of prostitution. At least that’s the most common version of the story; there are others, including an excessively grim one where the three girls are beheaded by an innkeeper and pickled in a tub of brine until Nicholas resurrects them. [1]

Even if those tales are false or embellished there is one important fact about what he did for the church:

According to one biographer (writing five centuries after Nicholas’s death), “Thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas, the metropolis of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy, which it firmly rejected as a death-dealing poison.” Other biographers claim Nicholas attacked the heresy of Arius (who denied the full divinity of Christ) in a much more personal way—he traveled to the Council of Nicaea and slapped Arius in the face! [2]

If that is the case this Saint Nicholas stood with others like Athanasius against ‘the world’ to protect the church from a grave heresy even if it was the defense of orthodoxy in the form of a slap!

St. Nick punching heretics

The heresy of Arianism [3] maintained that the Son of God was created by the Father and was not the same essence as the Father but was still of the same substance. That is philosophical language saying that Jesus is not God but created by God and that the trinity is not real. Those who, like Athanasius and Nicholas, stood ‘against the tide’ of those who ‘said they were on the right side of history'[4].

Even the Emperor Constantine just wanted the argument to end and to have unity no matter the decision.Just having an end to arguments is no way to find the truth.

However, there did come something that came out of the need to end the argument: a Church council. Councils do not stamp out heresies but they did create the creeds which are statements of faith that define what we believe and unite us. In this case the Nicene Creed was penned which states:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen. [5]

There was much more to the fight over that heresy but as you reflect on flying reindeer, fat men dressed in red at malls who take gift requests, and talking snowmen with hats, remember what the holiday is really about: Not of the magic of God creating a “demi-god” but the reality of the Trinitarian God who to save us became one of us, suffered, died and was resurrected. Amen!


[1] http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/news/2004/nick.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] Arianism is named after its main proponent Arius. It is never a good thing looking back across history to have a heresy named after you.

[4] St. Jerome famously said: “The whole world woke up one morning, lamenting and marveling to find itself Arian

[5] http://www.theopedia.com/nicene-creed

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