Introducing Nicholas of Myra
The Advent season is coming, and I have been thinking of alternatives to present to my own children as they have been exposed to countless Christmas decors and ideas ever since September. Yes, Christmas shenanigans start early in these parts. My children are ages 6 and 2 years now. But ever since they could communicate and understand, my husband and I have been intentionally teaching them regarding the unreal stories surrounding the myth that is Santa Claus. The image of a jolly man in red suit has been largely attributed to a Coca Cola advertisement during the 1930s. However, stories behind Santa Claus is based on the actual historical figure that is Nicholas, a real Bishop of Myra.
Nicholas was greatly known for his good deeds and great faith. He gave his life to the preservation and expansion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ during the rule of the tyrannic emperor, Diocletian. During the 4th century, Nicholas also fought against the heresy presented by Arius who said that Jesus was created by God. Some legends even say that Nicholas slapped the heretic Arius during the Council of Nicea. Of course, we cannot be certain if that really happened. Just like most of the stories surrounding Santa Claus.
So I’m listing a few resources that you could use with your children to introduce the actual historical figure, that is Nicholas of Myra.
Resources about Saint Nicholas
The Story of Saint Nicholas
The first one is book by the Voice of Martyrs with Cheryl Odden. I found our copy of The Story of St. Nicholas: More Than Reindeer and a Red Suit at one of the Booksale branches for only PHP 35 (less than USD 1) early this year. Booksale is a chain of second-hand bookstores within the Philippines. When I saw the logo of Voice of Martyrs, I knew I had to grab it. Voice of Martyrs is also responsible for the Torchlighters videos that introduce children about the different heroes of the faith.
Nicholas lived in a place that is now part of Turkey. He was born in the town of Myra about 200 years after the birth of Jesus. At that time, Myra was part of the Roman Empire.
Nicholas grew up as an orphan after his parents died. As an adult, he became a Christian leader.
An evil Roman leader named Diocletian decided that Christians were bad people. Since Nicholas was a leader in the church, Roman officials sent him to jail. Other Christians also suffered in prison under Diocletian’s rule.
Later, an emperor named Constantine came to power, and he liked Christians. He freed Nicholas and other Christians from prison. Nicholas continued to help orphans and others in need.
During the Christmas season remember Christians who are still persecuted for their beliefs around the world today.
You can read more stories about Nicholas of Myra at the Kids of Courage website over here and here. Kids of Courage resources help parents and educators teach children ages 5 to 13 about persecuted Christians around the world, and provide opportunities for the children to serve and pray for them.
Another book that I love which is befitting for smaller children is Just Nicholas by Annie Kratzsch. I had my brother buy me a copy at the Reformation Bookstore during his visit to Sydney in Australia.
Read the true story of Saint Nicholas of Myra, the man who gave what he had to help others because he was grateful for what God had given him. As a young boy, Nicholas learned the story of Jesus from his parents. When he grew up, he lived out his Christian faith in a unique and selfless way that we still celebrate today. The stories we tell about Santa Claus say that he gives only to those who are good or nice. The story of Nicholas reminds us that God gives based not on what we deserve but on his overflowing love for us. A helpful parent resource section includes questions to explore with your children as you read Just Nicholas and make the man before Santa part of your Christmas tradition.
When Santa Learned the Gospel
Now this last one, When Santa Learned the Gospel by Simon Camelliri isn’t really a historical account of Nicholas of Myra. But it uses the fictional flair of Santa Claus to introduce the message of the Gospel both to children and parents. The Gospel presentation is clever, clear and concise. It is a self-published book, and everything is available online—the full text of the book, including a well-made animated video produced by 10ofthose. But I would advise that parents get a physical copy to snuggle in and read with your kids.
Instead of being written off as just not good enough.
The message to the naughty list was one of grace and love.
The gospel offered mercy to all those deserving coal.
The gospel offered forgiveness and cleansing of your soul.
The gospel told how Jesus died our death to pay the price
To reconcile us all to God – both naughty and the nice.
This offer was a real gift, unlike presents ‘neath the tree.
It was not earned by being good. It was offered for free.
For all his life Santa had claimed that if you had been bad
Then you would not get presents and your Christmas would be sad.
Santa compared his message with this new one he had learned.
His message said you get the presents your good deeds had earned.
The message of the gospel offered something so much greater…
Jesus had come to reconcile the world to their Creator.
Those are the top three things that I love and would recommend as you learn and teach your children about Saint Nicholas of Myra and the Gospel message of Jesus during this season.
What else did I miss? What do you use to share about the real Santa Claus?