21.12.09

"Finding Forgiveness in Christmas" (Ephesians 4.32)

Nicholas was born in the third century in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. He was born into an affluent family, but his parents died tragically when he was quite young. His parents had raised him to be a devout Christian, which led him to spend his great inheritance on helping the poor, especially children. He was known to frequently give gifts to children, sometimes even hanging socks filled with treats and gifts.

Perhaps his most famous act of kindness was helping three sisters. Because their family was too poor to pay for their wedding dowry, three young Christian women were facing a life of prostitution until Nicholas paid their dowry, thereby saving them from a horrible life of sexual slavery.

Nicholas grew to be a well-loved Christian leader and was eventually voted the Bishop of Myra, a port city that the apostle Paul had previously visited (Acts 27:5–6). Nicholas reportedly also traveled to the legendary Council of Nicea, where he helped defend the deity of Jesus Christ in A.D. 325.

Following his death on December 6, 343, he was canonized as a saint. The anniversary of his death became the St. Nicholas holiday when gifts were given in his memory. He remained a very popular saint among Catholic and Orthodox Christians, with some two thousand churches named after him. The holiday in his honor eventually merged with Christmas as they were celebrated within weeks of one another.

During the Reformation, however, Nicholas fell out of favor with Protestants, who did not approve of canonizing certain people as saints and venerating them with holidays. His holiday was not celebrated in any Protestant country except Holland, where his legend as Sinterklass lived on. In Germany, Martin Luther replaced him with the Christ child as the object of holiday celebration, or, in German, Christkindl. Over time, the celebration of the Christ child was simply pronounced Kriss Kingle and oddly became just another name for Santa Claus.

These stories of Santa Claus were first brought to America by Dutch immigrants. In the early twentieth century, stores began having Santa Claus present for children during the Christmas season. Children also began sending letters to the North Pole as the legends surrounding an otherwise simple Christian man grew.

At Emmanuel Ministries, we keep the center of our holiday focused on Jesus; it’s probably what Nicholas would have wanted. (this introduction is based on a post by Pastor Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA)

Jesus had a purpose (Luke 2.1-14)
  • importance is realizing Jesus was born with a purpose, a mission
  • to bring forgiveness
  • to offer salvation through trusting in Him

Jesus had a message of how to be forgiven by God (Luke 24.45-48)
  • Jesus preached repentance and forgiveness
  • a salvation based on grace through faith (Ephesians 2.8-9)

Jesus paid the price
  • in His own blood for our forgiveness (Ephesians 1.7; Hebrews 9.22)
  • We are redeemed by His blood (sacrifice on our behalf)

We have a responsibility…
  • we are to forgive (Ephesians 4.32)
  • with Christ’s sacrifice, we have no right to be unforgiving (Luke 23.34)
  • Benefits of forgiveness
**obedience to God
**brings healing








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