I think all of you can finish this poem: ’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
This poem was written in 1837 by Clement Moore. Most people assume the title of the poem is the first line of the poem, but Moore’s original title is actually “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” And we all know what St. Nicholas (aka Santa Claus) looks like, right? Actually, this well-known painting of Santa Claus is the creation of Haddon Sundblom for Coca-Cola in 1930, but it’s not too far off from the original St. Nicholas.
Nicholas of Myra was a Christian bishop who lived in the 3rd century AD. It was discovered by some of his peers that he would anonymously throw bags of money through the open windows of the poor people in his town. Some of the coins landed in these poor families’ shoes and socks as they were drying by the fireplace. The myth grew that without your stockings hung by the fireplace you wouldn’t receive any gifts. After Nicholas died in 342 AD he was declared a saint, so his popular practice of blessing the poor spread and took on a life of its own.
I’m struck by a contrast from the line in Moore’s poem that “the stockings were all hung by the chimney with care.” This tells us how well people prepare for the “arrival” of St. Nicholas each Christmas, but let’s contrast that with how ill-prepared—if they even know they need to prepare!—people are for the absolutely certain fact of the arrival of King Jesus!
Just as the vast majority of Israelites weren’t prepared for the Messiah’s first Advent in Bethlehem in the 1st century, how many people are still unprepared for His second Advent which could occur at any moment?
Think about the contrasts between the legend of St. Nicholas (i.e. Santa Claus) and the certainty of Jesus Christ:
- St. Nicholas was a poor monk who has now become richer than imaginable. Jesus is the King of kings who left all His riches and kingly rights to become poor.
- St. Nicholas was a servant who has now been elevated to royalty status. Jesus is Absolute Royalty who became a servant.
- St. Nicholas lives in a castle at the North Pole; there wasn’t even a room for Jesus at His birth, or even later in His adult life.
- St. Nicholas is a fable that people venerate; Jesus is the Truth that people mock.
- St. Nicholas left a legend with nothing of lasting value; Jesus is Absolute Reality and He is coming again (see Hebrews 2:14; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 2:7; Matthew 8:20; Acts 2:22-23).
There was no room in any inn, although Joseph knocked and knocked. Jesus is still knocking today, except today it’s on the door of your heart (Revelation 3:20). Will you let Him in? Or will you continue to allow your heart and mind to be dominated by myths and legends?
Advent is a time for reflection. I don’t think we could ask a more heart-searching question than this—
Am I more prepared for St. Nicholas than I am for King Jesus?