Saint Nicholas has long been revered as one of the world’s most beloved and generous figures. Throughout his life, he devoted himself to acts of charity and assisting those in need.
His kind-heartedness was legendary—so much so that it became a popular Christmas tradition to give gifts anonymously in the spirit of Saint Nicholas during the holiday season. He is an inspiration to us all to lead more loving and generous lives.
James Rosenthal is an Anglican Minister who heads up the ‘St. Nicholas Centre’, and he joined us on 20Twenty to share some history and insights into the truth about Santa Claus.
There are dozens of images of St Nicholas in England, and over 400 churches are named after him. Yet there remains a certain ignorance about the person and his excellent tradition. ‘I went on a spiritual journey,’ says James. ‘To see how I could be more like this man of God in what I did.’
The Meaning of Santa Klaus
‘There is less and less talk about the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. But I wanted to give this Santa Claus a test. I wanted know his real name, his real function, and bring him back to who he was in light of our own faith.’
Santa means Saint Klaus and is half of the word Nikolaus. The whole attempt at changing the name was to take away the religious aspects. The name Saint Nicholas is Christian. He lived a Christian life, and he was a generous minister.
‘All the things about him point to why he did what he did,’ continues James. ‘It was because of the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ. To do good and to speak the truth in love.’
Nicholas firmly believed in the fact that Jesus Christ was both God and man, even though others didn’t. He stood for undeniable faith in who Jesus Christ is. So naturally, he is known as Santa Claus or Father Christmas.
Saint Nicholas was renowned for his extraordinary generosity, even from a young age. His life began with great wealth, yet his heart remained kind and compassionate. He knew the power of stories, having learned this lesson from Jesus Christ himself who used them to teach us valuable lessons. This selfless attitude is one we can all hope to emulate in our own lives, and pass on to future generations.
Giving because of Jesus
In Nicholas’s village, there were three daughters who were not going to have enough money to be married. In those days girls need to present a dowry to be married. If they could not afford this, they would be destined to be sold as slaves. He decided to visit their home and drop bags of gold into the chimney. Sound familiar? The bags of gold fell into the stockings that were hanging to dry on the fireplace, thus the Christmas stocking.
Nicholas told them that he did this because it was what Jesus wanted him to do. He asked them not to tell, but of course they told everybody, and then Nicholas’s reputation went before him. To this day, he is known as the wonder worker and the gift giver.
‘I wanted to find out who the real man was, what he looked like and any details about him,’ says James. ‘Scientists came up with an image of what they believe Saint Nicholas actually looked like. A large man with beautiful white hair and a beard.’
‘It’s part of the human journey to want to identify with someone who’s important to us. For Christians, it’s absolutely necessary that we look at the things that God has given us and rejoice that they can lead us to faith.’
Listen to James’s full interview on 20Twenty below: