Jolly Old Saint Nick

Jolly Old Saint Nick

Legend has it St Nick was less about 'Deck the Halls' and more about deck the heretic. As well as giving gifts to kids, he was serious about theological orthodoxy.

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Ben Baker

Ben Baker

Ben is the Director of The Bridge. The directing may look a little different than Marty Scorcese but it means he's bossing everyone around at The Bridge. Having spent a good number of years as a Children's & Youth Worker, he's now an Ordinand in the Church of England, but that doesn't mean he's leaving young people behind. He's passionate about an all-age church, biblical teaching and spirit-filled ministry, and you'll probably find him in his spare time reading theological tomes or devouring the IMDb 250 database.

Streams

The Big Story #6: God's Church

The Big Story #6: God's Church

Rounding off our big Bible overview we look to the conclusion of the story and what we need to do to get there. God has chosen us to play a part in it, but how? What does it mean to be God's church?

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The Big Story #5: God's Son

The Big Story #5: God's Son

It all points to Him, everything that had come before, the promises, the prophecies, the people. Here we reach the climax of God's story in a person, God's son, Jesus Christ. We don't understand him until we see how he fits into what's come before.

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The Big Story #3: God's Kingdom

The Big Story #3: God's Kingdom

Look around the world and we see kings, presidents, leaders who are very much flawed. Israel had a king - God, but they wanted a human king. We look at how that worked out for God's people.

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The Big Story #2: God's People

The Big Story #2: God's People

God's story is both cosmic in scope and intimate in care, we see that as he chose to fulfil his purposes in a family. But why did God choose Abraham and the people of Israel to be the ones who would be a blessing to the whole world?

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Jolly Old Saint Nick

Father Christmas. Santa Claus. Saint Nick.

Whatever name he goes by in your mind, there’s no escaping this jolly, overweight, present-giving, bearded man at this time of year. For you it may start when the Coca-Cola ad comes on during I’m a Celebrity. Or maybe you pass this man in red as you attempt to navigate around the queues of children waiting to see him as you innocently attempt your Christmas shopping. Whilst we all might say we don’t believe in him anymore, there’s no denying that there’s no one more influential on our Christmas season.


Since when did Santa become more important than Jesus?


Don’t worry, I’m not here to play Scrooge. But is there more to our myth of Father Christmas than reindeer, elves and a toy workshop at the North Pole?
You’ll have heard it before that the character of Father Christmas or Santa Claus is one that has its roots in a man hundreds of years ago called Nicholas – Saint Nicholas. He lived in modern day Turkey around 3rd and 4th Century AD and was Bishop of Myra. There are various stories and traditions that we have concerning his life, and these largely involve his generosity. One story tells of how he by cover of night gave three bags of gold coins to a poor man to pay the dowry for his three daughters. What a saint! St Nick became known for secret gift-giving. Tradition tells us he would put coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and you can see how this has developed into leaving out stockings for Santa.


Generosity is great but there is something else worth knowing in the myth of St Nicholas.
In 325 AD, Roman Emperor Constantine called together the Council of Nicaea in which bishops from all over the empire were to meet to discuss matters of church teaching. One of the issues at stake was regarding the nature of the Son of God in relation to God the father. (Whilst the Christian understanding of the trinity was largely settled, some were still getting their heads muddled!) Simply and crudely put there was the position put forth by Arius who believed that in order for Jesus to be God’s Son he must have come after the Father and be in some way less God than the Father. On the contrary there were those who insisted that the Father and the Son are both equal in being God and in both existing eternally.


Legend has it that as the debate grew heated, St Nicholas in his zeal for God’s truth, punched the soon to be labelled heretic Arius in the face!


Whilst the account of Nicholas punching Arius is very much is the stuff of myth and legend, it appears there’s much more to the roots of Father Christmas than giving presents - there is a passion for the correct knowledge of God and the glory of Jesus Christ! Whilst I certainly can’t condone a violent response to theological disagreement, there is something admirable in his defence of God’s truth.


This Christmas time when we see the bearded overweight man in a red suit, rather than play the Scrooge, perhaps we might remember in some way, that this man stands in a tradition of standing up for God by punching heretics!

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