Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Putting St. Nicholas Back into Christmas

The morning after Christmas Eve, the angels flown, shepherds back with their flocks, presents open, candles out, Father Daron Vroon asked the congregation of St. James' Episcopal Church (Marietta, GA), "What did it all mean for us today?" 

His sermon, titled, "You Better Watch Out!"  hinged on a story of Saint Nicholas that I'd never heard.  As a bishop of Myra, Nicholas attended the Council of Niceaea, where the emperor of Rome had called together the hierarchy for a hearing of Arius's theories.  Hearing Arius argue that Jesus was a creature of God, latest in a string of intermediary prophets, Nicholas stepped forward and slugged Arius.  For this violence, Nicholas was punished, but later reinstated.  The council rejected Arius, and we now recite from the Nicene Creed that we believe Jesus to be "God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father." 

In Fr. Daron's sermon, Nicholas was standing up for the essence of our faith.  It's not just a baby or angels, but incarnation:  God participates with us in life and suffering; He does not remain a distant figure who sends intermediaries from time to time.  (This is also the gist of today's reading from Hebrews.)

This certainly gives us more to celebrate at Christmas than "the spirit of giving" or what a couple of 30-somethings discussed at the Square Bagel yesterday:  "You know the true meaning of Christmas? It's really the birthday of Jesus!" 

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