The Real "Saint Nick"
Yes, Virginia, there really was a Santa Claus. At least there was a St. Nicholas (alias “St. Nick,” d.b.a. “Santa Claus,” and a.k.a. “Kris Kringle”). No, he didn’t slide down chimneys, live at the North Pole, deliver Christmas presents, or wrangle flying reindeer. But St. Nicholas, in a way, helped save Christmas. This fourth century bishop stood up against the heresy of Arianism, which if it had prevailed within the Church, would have reduced Jesus to the status of a created being rather than “very God of very God”. It was St. Nicholas of Myra, and others like him, who affirmed the divinity of Christ in what was one of the greatest of the church councils, the Council of Nicea. Allow me to explain how Nicholas emerged as a “saint,” as well as, a defender of the faith.
At the time of Nicholas, around 300 A.D., a heresy known as Arianism had gained wide acceptance. It was named after an Alexandrian presbyter, Arius, who taught that Christ, the Son, was created by the Father. The popular saying among adherents to this doctrine was; “There was a time when He [Jesus] was not.” Obviously, this meant Jesus was less than God the Father, sort of a “Junior Deity.”
To settle this and other troublesome issues of the day, the emperor Constantine called for a church council. In 325 A.D. the Council of Nicea convened. In this gathering of bishops, which included Nicholas, Arius was branded a heretic and the Son was affirmed as being of the same divine nature as the Father.
It was during this council, where debate raged for days, that according to legend, Nicholas struck Arius in the jaw. That’s right! “Santa Claus” used his fists to defend the faith. Not exactly the picture we have of “Ol’ Saint Nick.” This was no “nicer than Jesus” preacher. He was a theological “Rocky Balboa.”
Did Nicholas save Christmas? You be the judge of that. He defended the divinity of Christ against a dangerous heresy with both words and “deeds.” His methodology may have been unsaintly, but he did help get the job done. May we have the spirit of “Saint Nick,” a defender of truth.