Friday, December 21, 2012

The Origins of Santa Claus and Xmas

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Here's the link for today's episode of the Cinnamon Bear Radio show. I have been using it as a spring board for my writing ideas this month. If you want to catch earlier parts of the story you can find them at my blog A Devotional Mosaic where I post daily Monday thru Friday. I also post on Fridays for the Healing Stream Media Team Blog along with a great bunch of other inspiring writers.

Jimmy and Judy get to meet "the really truly Santa Claus". He's pretty busy but he knows just the person to fix the silver star. The sleigh and warm fur coats have been ordered for the kids and Crazy Quilt and Cinnamon Bear are off to the taylor shop. Brrrrrrrr off they go to meet Jack Frost who can frost just about anything but a chocolate cake. He is able to fix the star and set it in the window to harden. Oh no! you guessed it the star is no longer in the window when they turn around to look.

I thought I would write today about some more history behind holiday traditions that mark this season.

For example did you know that early Christians used the letter X as a symbol representing the name of Christ. In Greek the word for Christ's name is Xristos. If you were not educated and wanted to write His name you would simply make an X and it was commonly accepted to represent the name of Christ. You may also think that x marks the spot is about buried treasure when actually it was started by early believers. They would mark an X on the ground where a true believer had been persecuted and lost their life. It meant this one belonged to Christ. So while many believers today are all up in arms about people using Xmas rather than Christmas it should actually give you yet another way to share your faith with folks. So before you do away with the X in Xmas perhaps it is time to start a movement to not loose the real meaning of X.

Heres another thing that seems to escape most Christians today. Christmas as a celebration had nothing to do with celebrating the birth of Christ. The birth of Christ for most of church history was just another day. It was not one marked by any unusual celebration. It took the church nearly 300 years to even decide on what day the birth of Christ should be celebrated. Christmas was a actually a lawless drunken celebration until the mid 1800's. It was filled with people rioting in the streets and demanding food and other things from the upper class. In the song We Wish You A Merry Christmas there is a line where the carolers demand fig pudding and refuse to leave until they get some that is a reminder of this practice. It is actually a poem The Night Before Christmas and the story of Scrooge that finally put an end to the drunken mid winter celebration. Imagine that, the story Santa and Scrooge saved Christmas.

Before you kick the man in red out of your celebration you might want to hear the story of Nicolas of Bari. He was a good Christian man who who understood giving, and felt it was his duty as a believer to secretly care for the poor. He came from a wealthy Turkish family that lived during the 4 century. When his parents died he took all their money and gave it to the poor. He then followed the call of God into full time Christian service. At the age of 17 he became a monk and later became a priest. He was said to be a powerful prayer warrior. He would pray and people would get healed, but he was most remembered for his great generosity through out his life. From him we get things like stockings and the idea of Santa slipping in during the night to provide some gift for the poor.

Another young man, the Duke of Borivoy at the age of 15 followed the example of Nicholas when his wealthy parents died. He and his pages would leave the palace on Christmas eve to distribute food and clothing and other gifts to the poor.  The song Good King Wenceslas is about his generosity. These men were both serious believers who believed and acted on verses like Matthew  6:1-4.  “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 
The stories of these and other generous men grew and grew through the years into the Santa, the magical elf that we know today. I have to wonder if to non believers the idea of selfless giving seems to have a magical quality in that they have no way to describe the amazing work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.

Many believers have taken things like candy canes, ever greens, holly, poinsettias and even mistletoe and used them as symbols to communicate the truths of Christ.  Christmas was until recent history a pegan celebration.  It was believers like Francis of Assi who put a Nativity out in front of his church and taught children songs in there own language. An Martin Luther who put candle light on his evergreen tree to show the everlasting life and light of Christ to his family and friends. Even in this pagan holiday you can see the transforming power of Christ in action.  If you think about it Christians over the years have put a lot of Christ into Christmas. If you would like to know more I recommend the book by Ace Collins, The Stories Behind The Great Traditions of Christmas.  So don't toss out the man in red or get all bent out of shape by people who shorten Christmas to X mas. Instead you might think of ways that you can use use these things as opportunities to share with your friends and family the truths of the kingdom and the stories of the generosity of people like Nicholas and the Duke of Borivoy.

Prayer: Lord thank you that you were willing to come to a stinky smelly stable so that we humans might be restored to a right relationship to a Holy God. Thank you for all the many symbols and reminders of your truths and generosity that are found in so many of the symbols that decorate our homes at this time of the year. Help us find opportunities to share stories of your love and the stories of believers past and present who follow your example. Help us to reflect your love and generosity though out the year and not only at Christmas time.

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