Remembering the real St. Nick

Kim Lawton of Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly is reporting that many churches are trying to keep a focus on the real St. Nicholas, a focus that Canon Jim Rosenthal helped to start:

‘Tis the season of Christmas and Santa Claus, it seems, is everywhere. Children anxiously await his gift-bearing arrival, but some Christians are worried that most of those children — and their parents — don’t know who “jolly old Saint Nicholas” really was.

“St. Nicholas was a real person. Not a fairy, not someone who’s flying through the sky with reindeer, but an actual person who lived and worked and died and had a full life,” said Canon Jim Rosenthal. “He had a Christian life because he was actually a bishop, a pastor.”

Rosenthal, director of communications for the worldwide Anglican Communion office, is founder of the St. Nicholas Society UK/USA, an international movement urging churches to reclaim St. Nicholas.

Every year, Rosenthal dresses up like St. Nicholas, complete with a bishop’s staff, called a crozier, and hat, called a miter. He visits churches to help spread the St. Nicholas message.

. . .

More and more churches in the United States and the United Kingdom are finding ways to keep the St. Nicholas story alive. In Chicago, for example, St. James Cathedral recently hosted a special St. Nicholas exhibit.

“The stories of St. Nicholas are wonderful stories of a bishop who cared about his people, who cared very much about the poor,” said the Rev. Joy E. Rogers, provost of the cathedral.

. . .

Church leaders emphasize that Nicholas’ generosity was motivated by his Christian faith, that he was following Jesus’ command to love others, to help those who are suffering and to do one’s good deeds in secret.

“The problem with Santa Claus as it stands now is that it’s a substitute for Christmas — Santa Claus instead of the crèche, instead of the manger, instead of the nativity scene,” said Rosenthal. “This man we would find kneeling at the nativity scene saying, ‘This is what I’m here to celebrate as well.”‘

Read it all here.

A video of the program, as well as the dull transcript, can be found here.

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