The Elf on the Shelf
Thank goodness there was no elf on the shelf when I was raising my children. I couldn’t have handled the pressure. It was hard enough finding a place to stash the presents until I could wrap them. Apparently I was never successful at this. My son recently informed me that he discovered my top secret they’ll-never-find-it hiding place every year. Except the one year that I didn’t bother to try hiding things and left them sitting in a shopping bag on the floor in the middle of my bedroom. That year they searched all over the house, in the attic, in the basement and in the trunk of my car and never found the stash.
I suppose I am rather bah-humbugish about Santa and his elves. I’m the same way with the tooth fairy and Easter bunny. Once I started to take my relationship with Jesus seriously I couldn’t become overly enthused with the make believe. Why focus on fantasy when the reality is so awesome?
What could be more awesome than the amazing truth? Jesus became human. He left paradise to embrace poverty. He died for me so that I could live. Forever. With Him. Because He loves me. What could be better than this?
Santa vs. Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas, the man behind the Santa image, was much more than a jolly gift bearer. Although it is difficult to separate fact from embellishment, there are some details supported by historical records. Nicholas was born to wealthy parents, but orphaned at a young age. Obeying Jesus’ commandment to support the poor, he used his entire inheritance to assist the needy, sick and suffering. He was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. He became known for his generosity to the needy, his love for children and his concern for sailors.
Saint Nicholas lived during times of intense persecution. Roman Emperor Diocletian imprisoned so many bishops, priests and deacons that there was no room for the real criminals. Nicholas was imprisoned and exiled for his faith, but never martyred. He lived to a ripe old age and died peacefully on December 6, AD 343.
Many stories have been told about Saint Nicholas, and these stories have been embellished to create the legend of Santa Claus. The Saint Nicholas Center, Discovering the Truth about Santa Claus, offers the following comparison:
Santa Claus belongs to childhood;
St. Nicholas models for all of life.
Santa Claus, as we know him, developed to boost Christmas sales—the commercial Christmas message;
St. Nicholas told the story of Christ and peace, goodwill toward all—the hope-filled Christmas message.
Santa Claus encourages consumption;
St. Nicholas encourages compassion.
Santa Claus appears each year to be seen and heard for a short time;
St. Nicholas is part of the communion of saints, surrounding us always with prayer and example.
Santa Claus flies through the air—from the North Pole;
St. Nicholas walked the earth—caring for those in need.
Santa Claus, for some, replaces the Babe of Bethlehem;
St. Nicholas, for all, points to the Babe of Bethlehem.
Santa Claus isn't bad;
St. Nicholas is just better.
—J. Rosenthal & C. Myers
Everyday Examples: Awesome Realities
The Immaculate Conception
The Sacrament of Reconciliation