If you are wondering just what I mean when I say the "Spirit of St. Nick," the simple answer is putting others first and giving abundantly to meet their needs.
Seeing the title of this article, you are bound to think that I have fallen off my rocker and dented my kippah. But if you will stay with me for a few paragraphs, I think that you will find we are on the same page (and I have not, in fact, gone meshuga).

My topic is partially due to the drop in temperature here in Indiana, partially because local merchants begin noticeably decorating for Christmas as early as mid-October, and partially because I have been contemplating Paul's message of love and charity. Because of these trains of thought, I felt the Spirit of St. Nick was a relevant subject for a holiday article.

If you are wondering just what I mean when I say the "Spirit of St. Nick," the simple answer is putting others first and giving abundantly to meet their needs. Here is a quick little tour through time that will take us from the Apostle Paul to the Santa Claus sitting in your neighborhood mall. Are you still with me?

Within all of us is a God-given basic nature to give out of ourselves to others. In some this nature is extremely evident in service to their fellow man, while unfortunately in a few it is masked by selfishness and is almost indistinguishable.

For the rest there is every measure of actions and attitudes that range from charitable to self-serving in nature. But at the heart of every human, because we were formed in the likeness of God, is a core need to give to others.

No matter how nasty someone has become or perverted by the world, somewhere deep inside that need still resides. I always thought that the Dr. Seuss story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas illustrates that concept in an elementary yet profound way.

Most of us can quote John 3:16, but did you ever take a close look at the wording? God loved, so He gave. Of course as believers we know that He gave the ultimate gift to us in His son Jesus.

This is the very nature of our heavenly father and it is this nature that He placed in us. Paul even went as far as to say in his letters to the Corinthians, that this love towards each other was the most powerful anointing that has been placed in us.

It is what fuels all other anointing and gifts. Jesus was absolutely aware of the power of love. Just look at what the Bible tells us about the miraculous healings by the hand of Christ. In each instance we are told that He healed with compassion (love). Throughout the history of man, humankind has perverted the worship of our creator and placed false reverence on imaginary gods.

Oddly enough, in most every pantheon of counterfeit deities, there is at least one if not several spiritual beings who exhibit the trait of blessing humans with gifts and favors. Take for instance the Teutonic god of the air, Wodan the Wanderer (Odin), who supposedly gave gifts to children when they left straw and carrots in their boots for his flying horses.

Then there is the Norse/Germanic god of thunder, Thor, who road through the air on a chariot pulled by goats. Thor was said to be jolly and charitable during the winter solstice, whereas he would slide down chimneys leaving good children trinkets and sweets.

I am sure that you are starting to put the puzzle pieces together already. There is the Dutch folk figure of Sinterklaas who wore a red suit and white beard and then the invented character of Martin Luther, Christkindle (Christ-kind), which was later mispronounced Kris Kringle; both of these were supposed bringers of gifts and well being.

We mustn't forget the Catholic and Greek Orthodox figure of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, sailors, merchants, and yes, even prostitutes. Nicholas of Myra was a real man in circa 270 Lycia. Historically he was said to have emulated Christ's benevolence and charitable activities.

Nicholas was said to have given away all that he had for the benefit of others less fortunate, including his substantial inheritance. Later brought to sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church, St. Nicholas of Myra was often spoken of as St. Nick.

As you can easily see components of each of these mythological and historical characters were compiled together lending to today's version of jolly old St. Nick or Santa Claus.

The modern personification of the fat man in the red suit was further refined by Washington Irving, the author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle; theology professor Dr. Clement Clark Moore, who wrote A Visit from St. Nicholas in 1822; and the Coca Cola company beginning in the 1920s. But what I really want you to see is the common thread that they all share.

From pagan deities to patron saints to soft drink advertising, the Spirit of St. Nick seems to be the same; and that is a spirit of selfless giving to others in order to bring joy and fulfillment in them.

However dear brothers and sisters do not be deceived by the warm fuzzy feelings we can get from all the propaganda of a pseudo-gift giver. Although the world has tried to mask it with graven images, let's not forget that that deep yearning to bless others comes from the personality of God placed in each one of us.

Please know that I am not advocating Kris Kringle, Odin, or any other likeness of Santa Claus. What I want you to realize is that during this season of warm-hearted charity, be very aware that it is not the Spirit of St. Nick which compels you to bless with open hands, but it is the very Spirit of God who instructs you!

Copyright © Dick Reuben Evangelistic Association
All rights reserved. Used by permission.