And Now, After the Holidays - the Real Saint Nick
by Lori Heine
By the time you read this, Christmas will be over for another year. So why, you may wonder, am I writing about Saint Nicholas now?
Just as the Christian faith is a faith not only for Christmastime, but for all seasons, so, too, was Saint Nicholas – the real Santa Claus – a man for every time of year. Believe it or not, he was a real person. And not only did he not fly around the world in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, but he never made it anywhere near the North Pole. He was the Bishop of a diocese centered in Myra, which is now part of Turkey.
Not long ago, scientists found what is believed to be the saint’s tomb. Using a computer, they reconstructed, from his skull, what he probably looked like when he was alive. The picture that emerged can be found, top row center, at The St. Nicholas Center website:
In a way, I suppose, it does rather look like our Santa Claus. He does have a white beard, at least. But he also has eyes of deep brown, instead of the legendary twinkly blue. He isn’t fat, and his cheeks aren’t especially rosy. And he has a nose like a prizefighter.
He allegedly got that broken nose in a brawl with another bishop. He is reported, by historians, to have been a fiery, opinionated and thoroughly colorful man. In other words, he was as human as the rest of us. Personally, far from being disillusioned by this, it only makes me like him more.
Though He was God Incarnate, Jesus – St. Nicholas’s Lord, as well as ours – was as human as we are. I doubt He ever got into any brawls with bishops, but He was known to exchange heated words with self-righteous religious leaders in His day. That tends to make us, especially in the LGBT Christian community, like Him better, too.
There have been several attempts to reconstruct the face of Jesus, based on the image left on the Shroud of Turin. None turned out clear enough, on Google Images, for me to reproduce here. Suffice it to say that He looked very much like the average Palestinian Jewish man of His time. Though in His case, He was battered, bloody and deeply stricken in the sadness of an unjust death.
“There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.” (Isaiah 53, NLT)
No, He was not merely a beautiful, blond-haired, blue-eyed child in a manger at Christmas. He was only in the manger for a few days, at the very beginning of His life. And He probably didn’t have blond hair or blue eyes. He never made it to the North Pole, either. Though, today, He is everywhere.
Jesus is the real Man for All Seasons. And He is with us – at one with us – every day of every year. May we always care.
© 2013 Lori Heine
Top image: "Merry Old Santa Claus" by Thomas Nast, 1881
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