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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas

Most people are aware that the origin of Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas, but many aren't completely aware of who he was and what he represents.

Saint Nicholas was a very real person who was born as the only child to wealthy parents around 270 A.D. in what is now Turkey. Upon the death of his parents while he was yet relatively young, he inherited a rather large sum of money. It is said that he was already a religious boy and that soon after the death of his parents, he dedicated his life to serving Jesus Christ.

He became very well known for his love of children and generosity to the poor. His method of giving was generally more in the form of throwing a bag of money into a window, or putting gold coins in the stockings of the needy as they hung out to dry.

There are many legends that go with the type of person St. Nicholas was. One of the better-documented accounts of his generosity tells of a family who was starving with no money for food much less money for a dowry so the father could marry off his three daughters. The father was considering sending at least the oldest out to earn money as a prostitute. When the young Nicholas heard of this, he went during the night to a window of the home and threw in a bag of gold coins. In the morning they found the gold; they now had money for food and a dowry as well. The daughter kept her honor.

Because there were two other sisters, the young Nicholas threw in two more bags of coins on two other occasions. By the third time, the father wanted to know whom the benefactor was and watched until finally he caught the lad after he threw the third bag of money. It is reported that Nicholas was very upset that someone knew of his acts of charity and made the father promise not to tell anyone who had helped his family.

Eventually he became the bishop of the church in Myra where he was known for more great acts of charity. One legend said that some children were captured by a group of pirates that threatened to take the children to be sold as slaves if some large amount of money was not given to them. This bishop is said to have gotten the money himself and given it to the pirates to save the children.

During this period of history, the Romans were still persecuting Christians with their infamous cruelties including throwing them to the lions, etc. Although the worst persecution of the Christians had just taken place about 250 A.D. under the reign of Decius Trajan, there had been relative peace in the later part of the century. But in 303 A.D., the last of the great Roman persecutions began. The Roman Emperor Diocletian was persuaded again to suppress the Christian religion. Those who would not give up following the Lord, Jesus Christ, and turn over their sacred books would be either killed or put in prison. Those who went to prison were cruelly tortured.

Many great men suffered and died in defense of their faith in Christ. St. Nicholas was among these bishops.

This part of Saint Nicholas is not legend, it is part of history. While he lived in a world where apostasy from Christianity was all around him, he stood for what he believed. Saint Nicholas was one of the few who survived Diocletian's torture chambers. This is where he gained his title Saint; for those who did survive were called "saints" by the people in honor of their great devotion to Jesus Christ.

Saint Nicholas was freed when the new Emperor Constantine came to power. It is said that as he reentered Myra, the people flocked around him in his honor. He may have been beaten and tortured, but he was not broken. He went on to serve the people for many more years giving service and adding to the legends of his great goodness. To me this is a story of a man who did his best to serve his God and apply the principles taught by Jesus Christ. It is one that is worthy of being pasted down to our children.

In Germany Saint Nicholas is still called by that name, not Santa Claus. He is a priest with a normal sized body who wears a plain robe, without fur, that is not necessarily red. He has no magical powers or magical reindeer and elves -- he rides a donkey that he must coax along. Saint Nicholas day is December 6th, the day that the real Saint Nicholas died. On the night of the December 5th is when he leaves his presents and the children put their shoes by the door for him. Because this Saint Nicholas is more human, he doesn't come down the chimney nor can he put his finger to the side of his nose and go back up to the roof top. December 25th and 26th (they have two days for Christmas) is a time only for the celebration of the birth of Christ.

We have adopted many of these German customs. We tell our children about Saint Nicholas rather than Santa Claus and we celebrate his example on the 6th. I explain that it is the example and spirit of generosity that lives on. We try to give our children opportunities to play this secret role of giving to other families so that they too can feel of this spirit.

I believe that as Christians ourselves we should be promoting a Christian emphasis for the holiday. Statistics show that only 21% consider this a time to think about the birth of the Savior. For most people in America, Santa Claus is the only level celebrated. But even Santa Claus is a thread for these people back to Christianity. Perhaps we can spread the word of who this man was and help them understand that if the real Saint Nicholas were here to celebrate with us, he would tell us to look to the Son of God. I believe he would also be reminding us that we are celebrating a Holy Day and that this is the original meaning of the word Holiday.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The real reason for CHRISTmas

I would just like to say that I hope everyone has a merry Christmas. Please don't forget the reason why we have Christmas. As Christmas draws near, let us remember the true meaning of why we celebrate it. We celebrate because a Savior which is Christ the Lord was born. The angel said, "I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." In a world where it is not politically correct to mention Christ the Lord at Christmas time, Remember that Christ's birth is the reason we celebrate Christmas! So instead of saying Happy Holidays, tell the world Merry CHRISTmas!

True Christmas Spirit- Author Unknown

It was only four days before Christmas. The spirit of the season hadn't yet caught up with me, even though cars packed the parking lot of our local discount store. Inside the store, it was worse. Shopping carts and last minute shoppers jammed the aisles. Why did I come today? I wondered. My feet ached almost as much as my head.

My list contained names of several people who claimed they wanted nothing but I knew their feelings would be hurt if I didn't buy them anything. Buying for someone who had everything and deploring the high cost of items, I considered gift-buying anything but fun. Hurriedly, I filled my shopping cart with last minute items and proceeded to the long checkout lines.

I picked the shortest line but it looked as if it would mean at least a 20 minute wait. In front of me were two small children - a boy of about 5 and a younger girl. The boy wore a ragged coat. Enormously large, tattered tennis shoes jutted far out in front of his much too short jeans. He clutched several crumpled dollar bills in his grimy hands. The girl's clothing resembled her brother's. Her head was a matted mass of curly hair. Reminders of an evening meal showed on her small face. She carried a beautiful pair of shiny, gold house slippers.

As the Christmas music sounded in the store's stereo system, the girl hummed along, off-key but happily. When we finally approached the checkout register, the girl carefully placed the shoes on the counter. She treated them as though they were a treasure. The clerk rang up the bill. "That will be $6.09," she said. The boy laid his crumpled dollars atop the stand while he searched his pockets. He finally came up with $3.12. "I guess we will have to put them back, " he bravely said. "We will come back some other time, maybe tomorrow." With that statement, a soft sob broke from the little girl. "But Jesus would have loved these shoes, " she cried. "Well, we'll go home and work some more.

Don't cry. We'll come back," he said. Quickly I handed $3.00 to the cashier. These children had waited in line for a long time. And, after all, it was Christmas. Suddenly a pair of arms came around me and a small voice said, "Thank you, lady." "What did you mean when you said Jesus would like the shoes?" I asked. The boy answered, "Our mommy is sick and going to heaven. Daddy said she might go before Christmas to be with Jesus." The girl spoke, "My Sunday school teacher said the streets in heaven are shiny gold, just like these shoes. Won't mommy be beautiful walking on those streets to match these shoes?" My eyes flooded as I looked into her tear streaked face. "Yes" I answered, "I am sure she will."

Silently I thanked God for using these children to remind me of the true spirit of giving.

Does Xmas Take Christ Out of Christmas?

Xmas vs. Christmas : Xmas isn't the work of the devil. I grew up under the assumption that spelling Christmas as "Xmas" was a way of naming the holiday separate from its religious beginnings. I always kinda hated it, thinking that people were so averse to religion that they were x-ing out Christ's name.

Here's the Explanation....

The fish, Greek
ichthys (ixquj), is a symbol for Christ which has been in use since the days of the early church. In Greek, it is an acronym for Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Savior:

Jesus - I h s o u V

Christ - C r i s t o V

God's - Q e o u

Son - U i o V

Savior - S w t h r

Frequently Christians were forced to worship secretly. The fish symbol served them well in difficult times because it generally would go unnoticed by a foe of Christianity when Christians used it to communicate. Placed outside a Christian's home, this symbol would announce silently that Christian Communion was to be observed secretly there that night. Artistic forms of the fish frequently decorated the Roman catacombs where Christians were forced to meet during persecution.

Notice that X was the first letter in the word that was Greek for Christ. In the fourth century, copies of the scriptures had to hand written. Commonly used terms were abbreviated using the letter abbreviation. The original four gospels were written in Greek and so the abbreviation of X for Christ remained.

So the next time you see the X used in Christmas instead of Christ, instead of being upset and feeling like it is an effort to take Christ out of Christmas, be reminded of early Christians trying to worship their Savior and later by people trying to speed up the process of making more copies of the scriptures.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Love is on the Air!

It is felt everywhere if time is normal. Not to some that are affected by the collapse of the economy and for those who lost their jobs and houses, for those who tried to keep themselves warm on the side of the streets and under the bridge, to those who were left by the family, those who don't have a family to call their own and those who are suffering from pain of illness, lost of loved ones and depression. But even in times like these, the spirit of Christmas is evidently seen everywhere. More giving hearts, more smiling faces, more helping hands and more hopes and prayers. Do we really have to wait for this season to show more kindness and feel more love to other people? I call it seasonal love! Maybe we can live better than that, maybe we can live with it all year round. Do you think we can do it?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Charity - a pure love of Christ

In Christian theology charity, or love (agapē), means an unlimited loving-kindness toward all others. The term should not be confused with the more restricted modern use of the word charity to mean benevolent giving.

Love, in this sense of an unlimited loving-kindness towards all others, is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit, because it is said to both glorify and reflect the nature of God. In its most extreme form such love can be self-sacrificial. This love is necessary for salvation, and with it no one can be lost. Charity is comprised two parts, love of God and love of man, which includes both love of one's neighbor and one's self. Jesus Christ is the perfect example of charity. His crowning expression of charity was His infinite Atonement.

The stronger our hope, the purer our charity. The reason why charity never fails and the reason why charity is greater than even the most significant acts of goodness is that charity, “the pure love of Christ”, is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is something one becomes. "Charity Never Faileth". Charity encompasses all other godly virtues. When all else fails, charity—Christ’s love—will not fail.

"Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away". (1Cor 13:4-8)

If ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all. … Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever.”

Monday, December 8, 2008

How to Stay Married!---Great Story

A man and woman had been married for more than 60 years. They had shared everything. They had talked about everything. They had kept no secrets from each other except that the little old woman had a shoe box in the top of her closet that she had cautioned her husband never to open or ask her about.

For all of these years, he had never thought about the box, but one day the little old woman got very sick and the doctor said she would not recover. In trying to sort out their affairs, the little old man took down the shoe box and took it to his wife's bedside. She agreed that it was time that he should know what was in the box.

When he opened it, he found two crocheted dolls and a stack of money totalling $95,000. He asked her about the contents. "When we were to be married," she said, "My grandmother told me the secret of a happy marriage was to never argue. She told me that if I ever got angry with you, I should just keep quiet and crochet a doll."

The little old man was so moved; he had to fight back tears. Only two precious dolls were in the box. She had only been angry with him two times in all those years of living and loving. He almost burst with happiness. "Honey," he said, "that explains the doll, but what about all of this money? Where did it come from?" "Oh," she said, "That’s the money I made from selling the dolls.”

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Chastity - a Heavenly Virtue

Chastity is sexual purity. Being chaste is to be morally clean, in thoughts, in words and in deeds . And while we are in the era of new fashion, the style of accessories and clothing worn can be used to broadcast a person's receptiveness to sexual advances. For this reason, cultures which attempt to foster chastity often employ a modest style of dress, especially for women.

I pray that this issue will help us understand of the vital truth that chastity is the ultimate and perfect standard underlying all spiritual progression. There is no joy to be found in breaking this law. The primary reason for obedience to all the laws of chastity is to keep the commandments of God. Chastity has to do with the sacredness of the power of procreation. In fact, chastity and fidelity begin in the spirit, not in the body. Thus, chastity and fidelity are more than sexual abstinence before marriage and sexual fidelity after marriage. It can keeps you safe and makes your future marriage stronger. Please believe me when I say that chastity is worth more than life itself. Try to relate your feelings about the blessings of obeying the law of chastity.

Today millions of people are buying the rationale that chastity is outdated. But no matter how much we tried to keep ourselves from the truth, our gospel duty remain to do what is right and to love and delight in what is right. I delight in the chastity and purity of all women and men. How it must grieve the Lord to see virtue violated and modesty mocked on every side in this wicked world.