Every time you see that jolly man in the red suit remember the real man behind the white beard, St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, who was persecuted and imprisoned under the Roman emperor Diocletian. The Merrifield nursery in northern Virginia used to have a wonderful Santa who explained to the older children that he was the "clown of Christmas." Then using a model of the nativity scene he explained to children the real meaning of Christmas. We took our children to see him more years ago than I care to think about. But he seemed timeless so maybe he's still there or has passed his gentle faith onto another Santa filling his shoes. I hope so.
Don't forget during this season to keep Christ in Christmas. You can do that in a number of ways. Light your advent wreath every evening and sing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Send cards with a religious theme. If you go caroling be sure to include songs like Away in the Manger and O Holy Night and not just politically correct "holiday" songs like Jingle Bells. If someone wishes you "Happy Holidays" respond with a smile and "a happy holy day to you too." St. Nicholas Day anticipates the coming of the Christ child. And how Christians look forward to that day. Let us rejoice and be glad and share our joy with all those around us. And don't be shy. No one who has any sense is offended by the Christmas spirit, as is illustrated by Ben Stein's wonderful essay. Have a happy advent and a holy St. Nick's day.