Dec 5, 2015

Santa Claus - Pretender To The Throne - Part 1

It's that time of the year again, where we remember the incarnation of Jesus.  It's a season of lights, and, in some places, hopefully, peace.  Unfortunately, some of our traditions aren't so nice, and Santa Claus is one of them.  This may seem a little hard on ole' (Saint?) Nick, but he's got it coming...

Carol Brooks

A pretender is a claimant to a throne already occupied by somebody else.

(Based, in part, on an article entitled Santa Claus The Great Imposter
by Dr. Terry Watkins, Th.D.)

Santa Claus, Wild Man of the Woods


One beautiful hymn contains the following line ”Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King;” Sadly the “earth” is doing anything but. The meaning of Christmas has been lost in an endless round of festivities... shopping sprees, parties, decorations, trees, food, gifts and merrymaking. The King whose birth we celebrate at Christmas has slowly been ousted from centre stage as He doesn’t fit into today's politically correct views. For example... In 2006 Britain’s Royal Mail unveiled their 40th set of Christmas stamps… with six faith-free designs including snowmen, reindeer and Santa Claus. Christmas has become has become one gigantic commercial venture, with Santa Claus as the god-figure rather than Christ.

For the most part, the world will tolerate stars, angels, Christmas trees, or a baby sleeping in a manger. But there’s still "no room at the inn" for the King who invites us to walk His lowly path. Worse.. Jesus’ place has been usurped by a pleasant fat fellow’ boasting a red hat and team of reindeer. [usurp: to take a position of power or importance illegally or by force.]

Sound Ridiculous? It is! In fact it’s worse than ridiculous. Santa Claus has become the most beloved of Christmas symbols and traditions.

So how do we understand the Santa Claus phenomenon?

What do we REALLY know about Santa?

Is Santa just a harmless, friendly fellow? Or is there something or someone else hiding behind the façade?

Is he Satan in disguise, or wholly Christian modeled after a 4th century bishop

Sadly there is a lot more to the story than most people are aware of. Santa originated as an amalgam of St. Nicholas and various other pagan beliefs, which is bad enough. But, over the years, he morphed [a little added here and a little changed there] into the modern day, well known and well recognized figure, that bears far too many similarities to the one who appears as an “angel of light”, who once said he would exalt his throne above the stars of God and would be “like the most High”, and who is actively "seeking" those "whom he may devour"... The one the Bible calls ‘The Great Deceiver’. [TOP OF PAGE]

The Great Deceiver

    And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. [Revelation 12:9].
    How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.[ Isaiah 14:12-14]
    "And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light"
    Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: [1 Peter 5:8]. [Also See Evidence For The Devil] [TOP OF PAGE]

Seeking Whom He May Devour:

Children are the most vulnerable members of our society and it is no wonder that The Lord Jesus Christ warned several times against harming the "little ones".

    At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. [Matthew 18:1-6]
    And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. [Mark 9:42.]

Our Children and Youth are Under Attack From All Sides.

    “Everyone wants to get a piece of them. For instance, the New-Age Movement has an army just waiting to get hold of our children and youth. The gay-rights movement in this country wants nothing more than to make a generation of children think homosexuality is an acceptable alternative life-style. Advertisers on Saturday-morning cartoons want to influence our kids. Heavy-metal rock bands are trying to influence them. Those in favor of abortion rights want to get our kids thinking from their point-of-view. Drug dealers, beer companies, cigarette manufacturers, pornography publishers – the list goes on and on – they too are battling for the souls of our children and youth. [1]

[Harry Potter and, more recently, The Golden Compass are other direct frontal assault on the children, again with the willing compliance of many church leaders, parents and others that are spiritually blind]

    Almost everywhere we turn we see modern-day Nebuchadnezzars trying to turn the minds of our children from serving our God. Everywhere and from every direction, our children and youth come under attack, even as Daniel and his friends came under attack”. [1]

Dr. Terry Watkins bring up an interesting point in Santa Claus The Great Imposter, regarding a story in Mark...

    “Many parents have been "lullabied to sleep" with the deception that our children are innocently immune to the attack of Satan. There is a false security that believes our children will naturally "grow out of it" or "they’re just sowing their wild oats" or maybe "they’re just being kids". But the Bible paints a much different picture. In Mark chapter 9, God details a frightening occurrence. A man brings his "spirit possessed" son to the Lord Jesus Christ”.
      And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.
      And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.
      Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
      And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.
      And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. [Mark 9:17-29]
      It is interesting the apostles could not cast out this kind (vs 29). Jesus said, "This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." What kind of possession was it? What was different about this possession? I believe the answer is found in the only question the Lord Jesus asked. Jesus Christ asked the man "How long is it ago since this came unto him?" And the man answered, "Of a child". These hard to cast out kind are those that enter in a child. Is it because the possession reaches so deep and so strong that they’re almost impossible to remove?

Dr. Watkins goes on to say..

    “In Proverbs 22:6, the Bible explains the lifelong fruits of training a young child in the way he should go. That early training is so strong and so deep – as that child grows and matures – they will not depart from it.
      Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. [Proverbs 22:6]
    But. . . The flip side is: if that same child is trained by the ways of Satan and the world, chances are that child will not depart from it.

A Point to Consider …

    “If you once believed in a man who knew what you were doing, who had amazing abilities, and who gave you nice things, and he turned out to be a fake, why should you believe in another man who knows what you are doing, has amazing abilities, gives you nice things--Jesus Christ? If you get burned once, why get burned the second time? Wouldn’t it be better to be honest with our children right from the start, and teach them the difference between truth and make-believe?” [2]

Apart from the fact that it is wrong to systematically lie to one's children, there is a danger that when they discover the truth or simply grow out of what is eventually perceived as a childish belief, they could subconsciously dismiss the true story of Jesus’ birth as just another “story”.

So what is the truth behind the ‘story’ that millions of children are fed every year at Christmas… A story that they spend many years believing. Is it a harmless myth or has it been carefully orchestrated and manipulated over the years with the ultimate aim of taking center stage at Christmas… and helping ensure that the Christ is once again sidelined.

The journey should begin with a look at the fourth century bishop who is often credited as being the inspiration for Santa.
St. Nicholas [Nikolaus]The Fourth Century Bishop
Despite his popularity, the original Nicholas is a shadowy figure. Patron saint of sailors, pawnbrokers and SC-Nicholasmany other groups, there is little doubt that a Bishop of that name did exist in Myra (modern-day Antalya province, Turkey) in the 4th century. A church was built for him in the 6th century, which continues to be a tourist attraction in Myra, although the bishops remains were spirited away by 1087 by merchants from Bari in Italy, and are now held in the Basilica di San Nicola of that city... Pope Urban II is said to have been present at the consecration in 1089.
While we don't really know whether the original Nikolaus was particularly jolly or not, the enduring legends about his life suggest a great reputation for generosity. Many, many miracles [one more extravagant than the next] and good deeds have been attributed to St. Nick, including saving sailors from storms, restoring life to murdered boys, providing dowries for poor unmarried girls and destroying several pagan temples.
The Cult of St. NicholasThe cult of St. Nicholas spread far and wide. Holland built no fewer than 23 churches dedicated to him, many of which are still standing. Amsterdam even adopted St. Nicholas as its patron saint as did a few other towns.
    “Sailors, claiming St. Nicholas as patron, carried stories of his favor and protection far and wide. St. Nicholas chapels were built in many seaports. As his popularity spread during the Middle Ages, he became the patron saint of Apulia (Italy), Sicily, Greece, and Lorraine (France), and many cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Following his baptism in Constantinople, Vladimir I of Russia brought St. Nicholas' stories and devotion to St. Nicholas to his homeland where Nicholas became the most beloved saint. Nicholas was so widely revered that more than 2,000 churches were named for him, including three hundred in Belgium, thirty-four in Rome, twenty-three in the Netherlands and more than four hundred in England”. [3] Emphasis Added
    He is venerated in the East as a miracle worker and in the West as patron of a great variety of persons -children, mariners, bankers, pawn-brokers, scholars, orphans, laborers, travelers, merchants, judges, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, children, sailors, victims of judicial mistakes, captives, perfumers, even thieves and murderers! He is known as the friend and protector of all in trouble or need. [3] Emphasis Added.
    ". . . the cult of St. Nicholas was, before the Reformation, the most intensive of any nonbiblical saint in Christendom. . . there were 2,137 ecclesiastical dedications [churches] to Nicholas in France, Germany, and the Low Countries alone before the year 1500." [4]
    "By the height of the Middle Ages, St. Nicholas was probably invoked in prayer more than any other figure except the Virgin Mary and Christ Himself" [5]
And his popularity continues even today… For example [from Wikipedia]
    In Trieste in northeastern Italy St. Nicholas (San Nicolò) is celebrated with gifts given to children on the morning of the 6th of December and with a fair called Fiera di San Nicolò during the first weeks of December.
    In Germany many children put a boot, called Nikolaus-Stiefel, outside the front door on the night of December 5 to December 6. St. Nicholas fills the boot with gifts, and at the same time checks up on the children to see if they were good. If they were not, they will have charcoal in their boots instead.
    St. Nicholas (San Nicola) is the patron of the city of Bari, where he is buried. Its deeply felt celebration is called the Festa di San Nicola], held on the 7-8-9 of May. In particular on 8 May the relics of the saint are carried on a boat on the sea in front of the city with many boats following (Festa a mare). On December 6 there is a ritual called the Rito delle nubili.
    Interestingly St. Nicholas is the patron saint of a small town called Beit Jala near Bethlehem, since he is said to have spent four years there during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Every year on the 19th of December according to the Gregorian calendar [the 6th of December according to the Julian calendar] a great mass is held in the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, and is usually followed by parades, exhibitions etc.
It is difficult to reconcile the popularity of this man with the almost complete lack of verifiable detail about his life. However he is said to have opposed Arianism at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. [Apparently his name appears on some ancient lists]
    “the original minutes of this council were destroyed, people have tried to reconstruct the list of bishops who agreed to the orthodox formula to describe the Trinity, a brief text that became famous as the Nicene Creed. This list is known from eleven medieval copies. Only three of them mention Nicholas, but one of these is considered to be among the best copies”. [6] 
Physical Appearance: In Catholic iconography [pictured above], Saint Nicholas is depicted as a bishop, wearing the insignia of this profession: a red bishop's cloak, red miter and a bishop's staff. Popularly depicted as a slim ascetic looking man dressed in religious apparel, the Bishop of Myra bears very little physical resemblance to the modern day Santa Claus, who has a long white beard, and is usually short and fat.
    If Nicholas, the ascetic bishop of fourth-century Asia Manor, could see Santa Claus, he would not know who he was. [7]
    So the legends of Saint Nicholas afford but a slight clue to the origin of Santa Klaus,–alike, indeed, in name but so unlike in all other respects. [8]
Date: There is absolutely nothing to connect the original St. Nicholas to the celebration of Christmas on December 25th. On the contrary, the celebration of St. Nicholas is separate from the Christmas holidays. Most Europeans [and some Americans] still celebrate St. Nicholas day on December 6th, the date in AD 343 on which he was believed to have died. Many people in Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and St. Louis and other cities in the US with strong Germanic traditions have observed this day for generations. Often St. Nicholas Day, not Christmas, is the main holiday for gift giving, However the gifts he left beside the hearth were usually small: fruit, nuts, candy, small figurines etc.
The Gift Giver:
    “The Feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6 has been observed with great enthusiasm throughout Medieval Europe over the centuries. This enthusiasm was due to the many legends that had grown up around Nicholas: that he had distributed gifts to the poor at night through their windows, had fasted while a baby, had helped dowerless maidens, saved a city from famine, had aided a ship in distress, etc. [9]
St. Nicholas traditions vary slightly from country to country. In sixteenth-century Holland, children placed wooden shoes by the hearth the night of St. Nicholas's arrival. The shoes were filled with straw, a meal for the saint's gift-laden donkey. In return, Nicholas would insert a small treat into each clog. [The shoe was replaced with the stocking, hung by the chimney In America.
    Because of the gift-giving legends associated with Nicholas, it was held (especially in Belgium and Holland) that on the Eve the Feast of Nicholas, the bishop himself would come from heaven and visit children in their homes, giving gifts to those who had been good. Nicholas, decked out in full ecclesiastical garb (bishop's vestments, with miter and crozier), would arrive on a flying gray horse (or white donkey, depending on the custom). In some variations of the legend, he was accompanied by Black Peter, an elf whose job was to punish children who had been bad”. [10]
In Belgium
    On St. Nicholas' Eve, December 5th, or the weekend before, children put their shoes or small baskets at the hearth or beside the door with carrots, turnips, and a sugar lump for the saint's horse and a glass of wine for the saint. There may also be a picture they've drawn (or a list) showing what they would like. They believe St. Nicholas rides on horseback over the rooftops, dropping his gifts down the chimneys. In the morning shoes have been filled with chocolates, spiced cookies shaped like the saint and Piet, oranges, marzipan, and toys. In the spirit of St. Nicholas, treats are meant to be shared, not hoarded. Bad children, of which there are none, would find twigs. …” [11]
And in Germany
    In Roman Catholic areas of southern Germany, such as Bavaria, Sankt Nikolaus still comes as a with flowing beard and a bishop's and staff. Houses are thoroughly cleaned and children clean and polish their shoes or boots in preparation for the visit. On the evening before , children put letters to the good saint along with carrots or other food for his white horse or donkey on a plate or in their shoes. These are left outside, under the bed, beside a radiator, or on a windowsill in hopes of finding goodies from St. Nicholas the next morning. During the night Sankt Nikolaus goes from house to house carrying a book in which all the children's deeds are written. If they have been good, he fills their plate, shoe or boot with delicious fruits, nuts and candies. If not, they may find potatoes, coal, or twigs. [11]
While in Bulgaria the feast does not seem to be particularly centered around children and gift giving
    Bulgarians celebrate St. Nicholas as the protector of sailors and fishermen. Stories are told of St. Nikolay, the commander of the sea, calming wind and storms and saving ships in danger… A fish dish, ribnik, carp wrapped in dough or baked with rice, is served as carp is regarded as Nicholas' servant. Ribnik is baked in the oven along with two special loaves of bread. The food is blessed at church or at home before being served. [12]
    End Notes
    [1] Rev. Adrian Dieleman. Sermon on Daniel 1:1-7. November 20, 2005
    [2] Who is Santa Claus?.
    [4] Jones, Charles. W. "Knickerbocker Santa Claus." The New-York Historical Society Quarterly, October 1954, Volume XXXVIII Number Four, p.357. As Quoted in Santa Claus The Great Imposter by Dr. Terry Watkins.
    [5] Del Re, Gerard and Patricia. The Christmas Almanack. New York: Random House, 2004, p. 131. As Quoted in Santa Claus The Great Imposter by Dr. Terry Watkins
    [6] Articles on Ancient History. Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Santa Claus.
    [7] Del Re, Gerard and Patricia. The Christmas Almanack. New York: Random House, 2004, pp. 138,141, As Quoted in Santa Claus The Great Imposter by Dr. Terry Watkins.
    [8] Walsh, William S. The Story of Santa Klaus. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1970, p. 54, As Quoted in Santa Claus The Great Imposter by Dr. Terry Watkins
    [9] George H. McKnight, St. Nicholas: His Legend and His Role in the Christmas Celebration and Other Popular Customs (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1917), McKnight has a collection of these legends in St. Nicholas, 37-88
    [10] Dr. Richard P. Bucher. The Origin of Santa Claus and the Christian Response to Him
    [11] St. Nicholas Center. Around The World.
    [12] St. Nicholas Center. Bulgaria.