Friday, December 09, 2005

Found this article on St. Nick from George Grant

St. Nick

The fourth century pastor who inspired the tradition of Santa Claus, may not have lived at the North Pole or traveled by reindeer and sleigh but he certainly was a paradigm of graciousness, generosity, and Christian charity. Nicholas of Myra’s great love and concern for children drew him into a crusade that ultimately resulted in protective Imperial statutes banning child-abuse and abortion--statutes that remained in place in Byzantium for nearly a thousand years.

Though little is known of his childhood, he was probably born to wealthy parents at Patara in Lycia, a Roman province of Asia Minor. As a young man noted for his piety, judiciousness, and charity, he was chosen bishop of the then rundown diocese of Myra. There he became gained renown for his personal holiness, evangelistic zeal, and pastoral compassion. Early Byzantine histories reported that he suffered imprisonment and made a famous profession of faith during the persecution of Diocletian. He was also reputedly present at the Council of Nicaea, where he forthrightly condemned there heresy of Arianism--one story holds that he actually punched the heretic Arius in the nose. Ho, ho, ho!But it was his love for and care of children that gained him his greatest renown. Though much of what we know about his charitable work on behalf of the poor, the despised, and the rejected has been distorted by legend and lore over the centuries, it is evident that he was a particular champion of the downtrodden, bestowing upon them gifts as tokens of the grace and mercy of the Gospel.

One legend tells of how citizen of Patara lost his fortune, and because he could not raise dowries for his three young daughters, he was going to give them over to prostitution. After hearing this, Nicholas took a small bag of gold and threw it through the window of the man’s house on the eve of the feast of Christ’s Nativity. The eldest girl was married with it as her dowry. He performed the same gracious service for each of the other girls on each of the succeeding nights. The three purses, portrayed in art with the saint, were thought to be the origin of the pawnbroker’s symbol of three gold balls. But they were also the inspiration for Christians to begin the habit of gift giving during each of the twelve days of Christmas--from December 25 until Epiphany on January 6. In yet another legend, Nicholas saved several youngsters from certain death when he pulled them from a deep vat of vinegar brine--again, on the feast of the Nativity. Ever afterward, Christians remembered the day by giving one another the gift of large crisp pickles.

The popular cultural representation of St. Nicholas as Father Christmas or Santa Claus, though drawing on a number of such legends, was based primarily on a the Dutch custom of giving children presents--slipping fruits, nuts, and little toys into shoes or stockings drying along the warm hearthside--on his feast day, December 6. Throughout the rest of Europe during the Medieval Age, that day was marked by festively decorating homes and by a sumptuous feast that interrupted the general fasting of Advent. And in Scandanavia it was celebrated as a day of visitation, when the elders of all the remote country churches would bundle themselves in their thick furs and drive their sleighs laden with gift pastries through the snowy landscape to every home within the parish.

But perhaps more than any other sources, the advertising of soft drink manufacturer Coca Cola and the holiday cartoons of New York newspaperman Thomas Nash have profoundly shaped our perception. Coca Cola’s serving trays, signage, and print ads popularized the Nash caricature of a rotund, jolly, fur-draped, gift-laden, and unbidden visitor who pops down chimneys and distributes gifts to children all over the world. Alas, thus stripped of his pastoral function and parish proximity, Santa has become almost fairy-like in his mythic proportions.

Friday, December 02, 2005

On December 9, Disney will release the movie, "The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I was reading Al Mohler blog the other day and found some helpful info about the movie.

"The Walt Disney Company and Walden Media are set to release The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on December 9 -- so get ready for a major cultural event. I'll provide much more material about the series, the movie, C. S. Lewis, and the cultural impact of this film in coming days. For now, I want to draw attention to two excellent articles published in the new edition of Reformation 21, the online journal of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals."

"In C.S. Lewis: Apologist with an Imagination, Andrew Hoffecker of Reformed Theological Seminary argues that the release of the movie offers a unique opportunity for theologically-minded evangelicals. In his words: The appearance of the Narnia stories in film in December, 2005 provides an opportunity for the Reformed community to reflect on our unique constitution as thinking, imaginative beings. Lewis viewed his task as an apologist to defend Christianity in two ways: by appealing to our rational capacity and to our imagination. Christianity is something to be assented to as true. It also something to be received imaginatively. Through his allegory, The Pilgrim's Regress we witness Lewis' "apology for Christianity, Reason and Romanticism." Though the recent plethora of works on Lewis do not often refer to it, the Regress will reward those interested in how Lewis refuted modern philosophies and worldviews and perhaps spur writers to take a try at Christian allegory. The Narnia chronicles, on the other hand, receive frequent attention. Seeing them as Christian fantasy reminds those of us who are able to take up Lewis' challenge and join him by creating additional imaginative stories which may work their way into the modern consciousness and thus help convert the modern mind."

"In Reading the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with C.S. Lewis, Leland Ryken of Wheaton College offers several points of interest and insight. Helpfully, Ryken the literary scholar demonstrates a keen theological insight as well: The theological themes of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are primarily three in number. The most important theological fact about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is its Christological focus. The figure of Aslan dominates our experience of the book, and Aslan, as every reader of the book knows, is representative of Christ. The redemptive acts of Aslan, coupled with his coming back to life after an atoning death, retell the story of Christ's passion and resurrection. This story of salvation history is told with theological precision and with a continuous eye on the Gospel accounts of the life and death of Jesus."