Let’s cut Santa some slack

Around Christmas time Christians start bashing Santa Claus and get apprehensive if not aggressive against the good old Saint because he is presumably not part of the “real reason for the season”.
In many ways Christians are called to be Saints. Like here by the Apostle Paul:
“May the God of peace sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:23 – Watchword for the Week of Sunday 14 December 2014)

Santa is what Christmas is all about. Just keep in mind how we got him in the first place:

1. Santa Claus is named after St. Nicholas of Myra, the historic 4th-century Christian Saint and Greek Bishop of Myra (Demre, part of modern-day Turkey). He is the patron saint for children and the stockings we have on our mantles are derived from the boots that children in Europe get stuffed with little presents on St. Nick’s day, December 6th. Just they put them outside the front door so the original St. Nicholas does not have to invade homes. That’s what he looked like:

2. Father Frost is the Slavic personification of winter. He gave our current Santa his fluffy coat and heavy stature. He has all the warmth cold Russian winters lack and he brought presents to Russian children while Stalinism did not allow for St. Nicholas to make a religious appearance. Now the Russian church is having to wrestle with the fact that people have merged St. Nicholas and Father Frost in their hearts and minds. His coat for the most part was pictured green:

3. Even though there have been earlier attempts to bring a red version of this newly merged Turkish-Russian winter-spirit Saint to America, it took the marketing power of Coca Cola to ultimately give our modern day Saint his red coat and bring him fully into the center of American Christmas culture.

That’s what Christmas is all about:
1. A Saint helping poor little children
2. A resilient spirit keeping hope alive in hostile winters
3. A blending of different cultures and traditions that makes the holidays bright for everyone whether they call them Christmas, Chanukkah, Kwanzaa or just Holidays.


Learning opportunities

Hopefully Christians encourage one another and help one another. Please listen to my sermon on fellowship.


The Rapture

The Bible knows numerous raptures:
– The first recorded rapture in human history happened to Enoch – According to Genesis 5 “all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him.”
– Then Jesus’ Transfiguration: According to Mark 9 “Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.”
– Most prominently Jesus Ascension – you may have heard the Apostles’ Creed’s concise summary of Jesus’ mission: “he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
– At some point it is going to happen to all of us: The Second Coming also includes a rapture: According to 1. Thessalonians 4 “The Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.”


From a distance

Have you ever been separated from a faith community that was important to you? What happened? How did it make you feel? How did you find strength during that time? Why are faith communities important?
In today’s reading Paul writes that he hopes to visit the church in Thessalonica again. The author of Acts reports that Paul went to Athens after Jewish leaders caused trouble for him in Thessalonica and Berea (Acts 17:5-34). This may be the trouble that kept Paul from visiting again.


The Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus

Paul appears to levy absolute, generalizing accusations upon all Jews. Among the reasons that his words cause concern are:
(1) these statements are inconsistent with others Paul makes concerning his Jewish contemporaries, and
(2) these words have fueled anti-Jewish behavior and rhetoric throughout the history of the church.

Here are the verses in question:
“You suffered the same persecutions from your own people that they suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and persecuted us. How displeasing they are to God! How hostile they are to everyone!”

First, Paul limits his verdict to “the Jews, who” meaning a specific limited group of authorities.
Second, Paul himself was a leader in this group.
Third, the accusation of killing God’s prophets has been part of the Jewish tradition ever since Jezebel and is by no means outrageous or special.
Fourth, Paul knows very well that the Romans killed Jesus and is just using polemic for his own denomination here. Capital punishment was only available to the Roman empire that occupied Israel at the time.

Paul uses Jesus example to reject all kinds of persecutions!