CHRISTMAS: JESUS OF NAZARETH & SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA


I admit to being a sort of junkie about the origins and beliefs underlying (our) Christmas … the Biblical story of Christ’s birth.

But, now competing for attention in such matters is a disturbing swoon among American Christians.

A Pew Research survey of Christian adults back in March found that a 53% majority of Christian Americans believe the influence of Christianity is declining. A notably higher 67% of white evangelicals express that belief. Least likely to express concur are Hispanic Christians, among whom only 35% believe that.

In commenting on a Pew Research study three years ago, Christian Today (no, not Christianity Today) wrote:

“The shares of Christians who believe in the virgin birth, the visit of the Magi, the announcement of Jesus’ birth by an angel and the baby Jesus lying in the manger have all dropped in recent years. Overall, the proportion of Christians who believe in all four of these elements of the Christmas story has dipped from 81 per cent in 2014 to 76 per cent today. This decline has been particularly pronounced among white mainline Protestants, 71 per cent of whom believe in the virgin birth for instance, compared to 83 per cent in 2014.

As to the broader history, most Christian historians calculate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth as 2 or 3 B.C., with his crucifixion on Friday, April 3, AD 33 at about 3 p.m.

It was nearly three centuries before Saint Nicholas was born circa 280 in Patara, Lycia, an area that is part of present-day Turkey. Biography identifies him this way …

… “Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop who provided for the poor and sick and is the basis for the popular character of Santa Claus.”

And, History.com adds this …

… “St. Nicholas first entered American popular culture in the late 18th century in New York, when Dutch families gathered to honor the anniversary of the death of “Sint Nikolaas” (Dutch for Saint Nicholas), or “Sinter Klaas” for short. “Santa Claus” draws his name from this abbreviation.

In 1822, Episcopal minister Clement Clarke Moore wrote a Christmas poem called “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” more popularly known today by it’s first line: ‘‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.” The poem depicted Santa Claus as a jolly man who flies from home to home on a sled driven by reindeer to deliver toys.”

The iconic version of Santa Claus as a jolly man in red with a white beard and a sack of toys was immortalized in 1881, when political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew on Moore’s poem to create the image of Old Saint Nick we know today.

Be all that as it may, I pray for the very, very best Christmas for each of you!

HO! HO! HO!

© 2020 Elliott Stonecipher … ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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