Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Are You a Santa or a Saint?


Dear Friends,

Please don’t get me wrong here. I love Santa Claus. I’ll never forget the year he brought me a genuine Red Ryder BB Gun and I still have one of my old steel toy trucks he left for me under the tree. I even have the Erector Set that Santa gave me, but the Gilbert Chemistry Set disappeared shortly after the incident involving the stink bomb in my sister’s bedroom. As I grew into my teens, Santa apparently became very concerned over my personal hygiene habits because my stocking would be filled with deodorant, toothpaste and dental floss. Instead of finding an exciting new toy under the tree, I’d find a shirt and a package of underwear from Sears. Today, as I’ve transitioned into my senior years, Santa leaves me industrial-sized packages of toilet paper and paper towels from Costco. No. I’m not kidding about that.
But the Santa I knew and loved as a boy never overshadowed the Baby in the manger. We’ve enhanced and expanded the Santa legend today until he has morphed into God. He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows if you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good. So be good for goodness sake. Santa Claus is omniscient – all knowing. He knows when you've been good or bad. Santa is omnipresent – he’s everywhere on Christmas eve. Santa fulfills the wishes of good little boys and girls because he is all powerful – he’s omnipotent. Santa brings miracles! All you have to do is to believe!

Those three underlined characteristics are the attributes of God and God alone. But when we’ve imprinted God’s characteristics onto Santa Claus and elevated Santa to be our Christmas deity, we can’t blame our children or grandchildren for praying to their Santagod for toys and other cool stuff. Take a moment and look up Exodus 20:3.

But when I was a kid, the legendary Santa Claus was more like the real Saint Nicholas. In the 4th century, Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra which was located in the territory of Lycia. In New Testament days, Lycia was a province of the Roman Empire and was visited by Paul on one of his evangelistic journeys. (Acts 27:5-6)

Saint Nicholas has been remembered both as a man of great faith and for his compassion of others. His parents died when he was young, leaving him with a large amount of money. Many bishops in those days used their position in the church to gain great wealth and property. Nicholas used his position as bishop to give away his personal wealth to those in need. He used his money to redeem those sentenced to death for their failure to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor and Nicholas was known for giving gifts of food, clothes and shoes to children.

During the reformation, because of the unbiblical Church practices regarding the worship of saints, the Protestants jettisoned nearly all the saints but kept Saint Nicholas. In remembrance of Saint Nicholas on Dec 6th, children received gifts. “Sinter Klass” is Dutch for Saint Nicholas, and Dutch settlers brought Sinter Klass to America where he became “Santa Claus.”

But when the “Santagod” becomes our Christmas deity, we Christians join non-Christians on Black Friday to trample over each other at Walmart and fight over a big screen TV. When we’ve lost the true reason for the season, our hearts go out to disadvantaged children who don’t have the latest video games or a “Supernovia Battle Rover,”and we fill buses with Christmas toys while every 15 seconds, a child in the world under five years old dies from lack of clean fresh water. That’s why for the past three years we’ve been doing something differently in our church at Christmas time.  

Our little church has donated a disproportionately huge amount of money – $3,000 per year to Living Water International. This is the Christian organization that provides sustainable drinking water and the Gospel message around the world. Our church has provided working wells at an orphanage in India and another one in Mexico. This year we provided a village of 1,000 people in Nigeria with fresh, clean drinking water. All in the name of Jesus. Santa Claus would use that $3,000 to buy one hundred toys. Saint Nicholas would dig a well to save hundreds of lives. And at Christmas we get to make a choice. Will you be a Santa or a Saint?


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How to Transition from Santa to Saint
New Hope Family Church has joined a radical movement called the Advent Conspiracy which celebrates the birth of Jesus not as consumers but as Christians. It's not about the rejection of giving gifts to loved ones, but about giving fewer, more meaningful gifts and then giving the money we saved to Living Water International. $25 will buy a cheap plastic toy or it can provide clean drinking water to a family of five for a year. New Hope Family Church will give our entire Christmas offering on December 21st to Living Water and we invite you to join us. If you do not attend our church, you can donate directly to Living Water here. Why give fresh, clean drinking water as a Christmas gift to needy families? Because that's what Jesus would do.

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The AMEN Corner is a weekly devotional for the family and friends of New Hope Family Church. It is intended for this devotional to be strengthening, encouraging or comforting and your comments too should be for the glory of God and reflect the intended purpose of these posts.

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