Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Memory of the Righteous & a guy we call Santa

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Click to see more icons of Nicholas

Proverbs 10:7

The memory 
of the righteous 
will be a blessing,
but the name 
of the wicked 
will rot.

 I heard so many Christians discussing through the years, the topic of if we should celebrate Christmas with Santa. I listened to a woman on Christian radio lamented that she had no photos of her daughter with Santa. The lack of photos was not from a point of conviction but simply because the child was frightened by Santa and not interested in sitting on some strangers lap. As Christians we live in a world that celebrates various holidays during the year. Christmas is one of them, that while for us, it is a celebration and a remembrance of the birth of Christ for the rest of the planet it is about good will, cheer, gifts, food, parties, concerts.... Is it wrong for us as believers to enjoy and partake in the traditions of this world?  I will leave you to search that one out in the Word and come to your own conclusions. Jesus left us in this world to be a light in the darkness. To be salt that makes people thirsty for His living water.  So I ask you, do the things you do to celebrate honor and reflect the Lord you serve? Perhaps there are some adjustments you might want to make to shine a little brighter for Him.

So lets take on Santa. Wikapedia is a good place to start http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas From what I read there he seems to me to be a man who loved and followed Jesus during his life.

His Prayer Life:
He was clearly an effective intercessor. God answered his prayer enough that he became known as Nicholas the Wonderworker. Heck, there's something I'd like my kids to know about. How could we as a family become more faithful as intercessors, praying for the needs of those around us. What if God started answering those prayers. What if you and your family became known to the unbelievers around you as wonder workers in the name of Jesus. That could be pretty cool but most of us don't really believe in prayer or we would really do more of it. Oh, ouch did I step on a few toes. All too often we would rather run around complaining and wining and asking others to pray for us than to go directly to God not only for our own need, but for the needs of others. I can be as guilty of this as anyone else at times on this score. As Christians we do not need an intermediary to get to Jesus, he is the intermediary between us and the Father. In John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. I am very thankful for the wonderful intercessors that I have come to know, people who have challenged me to step up my own prayer and devotional life because of what I have seen of their alive, vital and abiding relationship with Jesus.
This guy Nicholas prayed and had a track record of his prayers being answered. There is another guy in the book of acts named Cornelius "Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God." Lets keep in mind James 5:16 "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." So quick how do we get to be righteous? If you are not sure check out Romans 3:21-26  Come on connect the dots what do you need to do to be a righteous person who's prayer are powerful and effective?
Back to Saint Nicholas...

His Life as a Giver
Another part of the life of Nicolas was that he was a kind and generous man. He saw needs around him and found ways to meet those needs with out shaming the poor for their lack. There are numerous stories about how he put coins in shoes and helped out daughters of poor who had no dowries.
Ok so this moved on to become stories of a wonder working gift giver we now call Santa.
Tell your kids about a believer who's life made enough of a difference that stories and legends of his generosity grew to encourage all of us to remember to give to others at Christmas time.

I love this story from the wikapedia page linked above. "
"However, in his most famous exploit, a poor man had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably, in absence of any other possible employment would have to become prostitutes. Hearing of the poor man's plight, Nicholas decided to help him but being too modest to help the man in public (or to save the man the humiliation of accepting charity), he went to his house under the cover of night and threw three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold coins through the window opening into the man's house.
One version has him throwing one purse for three consecutive nights. Another has him throw the purses over a period of three years, each time the night before one of the daughters comes "of age". Invariably, the third time the father lies in wait, trying to discover the identity of their benefactor. In one version the father confronts the saint, only to have Saint Nicholas say it is not him he should thank, but God alone. In another version, Nicholas learns of the poor man's plan and drops the third bag down the chimney instead; a variant holds that the daughter had washed her stockings that evening and hung them over the embers to dry, and that the bag of gold fell into the stocking."

You can see from this story where the idea of stockings and chimneys might have started.
I used the verse today about the memory of the righteous being blessed. This man left a legacy that although it has become very commercialized in our day still causes sinners and saints to give to others.  To stop for a day and give to others. It's quite remarkable what can come of a little generosity. I think Nicholas must have understood the story of the Sheep and the Goats. He seemed to have embraced the idea of "What ever you do for the least of these you have done it unto me" 

I think we can be pretty sure that this man was a giver and that he had an effective prayer life. We know he was a leader in the church of his day.  While I'm not a big advocate of the whole venerating of "Saints" thing I do think there are believers who have walked before and among us, who have modeled the life of Christ in their own life, in ways that we should remember and honor. I did have an Orthodox friend who at one point that helped me to see some of the value in remembering the lives of godly believers or "saints" as they are called in some parts of the church. 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul says "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."

Mother Terea is one of those moderen day people who's example of humility and care for the poor was remarkable. I think her life might serve as an example to us all. I think God showed that lady a thing or two in her day. This Nicholas guy did enough in his day that people told stories about him to their children, and those stories were passed along and clearly embellished along the way.

So here's my take on the whole Santa thing and I have walked through it with my own kids. I decided early on that I did not want to lie to my kids about a magical man who brings gifts in a sleigh drawn by reindeer.  So we have embraced that story as a wonderful pretend story that grew out of a life of a real believer in Jesus. A man named Nicholas, who prayed and cared for the poor is a good reminder to us to live our our faith in Jesus.  His prayer life and generosity have lived on beyond him.  As believers should be able to agree that there are some things in the life of this man that are worthy of praise.  I wanted to tell my children about the real man, so that as they learned more and more about Jesus they would know him as someone who is real. Not a made up mythical character like Santa. I did not want them to one day realize that I had lied to them about Santa, and to think that I might have also lied to them about Jesus. Does that mean we have not had some fun with the pretend story of Santa through the years? We have - they like to watch all the Christmas shows and will break out in a chorus of Here Comes Santa Clause and Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Reindeer. Its ok to pretend, its ok to have fun.

I do want to remind us all that - we are in different stages in our journey with Jesus. My convictions on this subject are based upon my own belief that it is important to be open and honest. Those are two things that are pretty high on my list of values. I am not meaning in anyway to make anyone feel guilty about how you happen to celebrate the holidays or even how you raise your own kids. Mainly just sharing how it has spun out in our family. Like you, I am a long way from perfection and am continually growing in my walk with Jesus. Whatever you do remember that it is faith that pleases God. What does the Word say?  Can you support your convictions in the Word?

Lets remember Philippians 2:12 -16
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.  Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—

Dear Lord,
I pray that we would live our lives in such a way that when we depart this life, our memory would be blessed. I pray that like Nicholas and Mother Teresa and many other believers who now are part of that vast cloud of witnesses in Heaven, that our lives would be a light in the darkness. Thank you for the foot prints others have left for us to learn and be encouraged by. I pray that we would be so salty that we would cause those around us to be thirsty for your living water.  Allow us to leave a lasting legacy of some sort that will speak beyond our years on this planet. Maybe we've never even given that much thought - I pray you would inspire us in this moment and help us to grab on to your vision and purpose for each of us.

PS. Did you notice in the icon image above that Nicholas has such an honor of the Bible that he does not even touch it with his hands but holds it carefully in his robe. I just like how the artist depicted Nicholas honor for God's word. He must have been a cool guy. I look forward to sitting down with him in eternity and hearing about his life.

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