There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the saints of the past, and everything right. The author of Hebrews in 12:1 writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” The saints of the past watch closely and cheer us on. Why not remember them and what they can teach us? Even Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” So, since the saints of the past cheer us on, let’s consider how we can emulate them as they imitate Christ. So, who are some saints, among many, and their “holidays we can remember this holiday?”
Saint Nicholas Day – December 6 – Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (270-343). The historical “Santa Claus” was a staunch orthodox Christian minister who was at the Council of Nicea and signed the orthodox Nicean creed and, as tradition tells us, in a lack of patience with the heretic Arius, slapped him. That’s my kind of Santa Claus. Stories surrounding Nicholas’ care of sailors and children and young women, are things that we need to strongly see as blessed elements of a loving gracious character, that developed into our over-commercial Santa. Frankly, the true historical saint is a far better person to celebrate this time of year.
Saint Lucia Day – December 13 – Saint Lucy (283-310). A saint celebrated in many nordic countries, who was a martyr for her Christian convictions. It is said that they could not lead her away and that they built a fire around her but she wouldn’t die until she received final unction. She persevered in the midst of her martyrdom continuing to speak with authority about how her death would remove fear from other believers. The girls that participate in St. Lucia’s Day traditions wear a wreath of candles to allow her hands to be free in honor of her using both hands to bring items to the believers in the catacombs. A worthy person to emulate.
The Feast of Saint Stephen – December 26. We’re well aware of the story of Stephen and his tremendous speech in Acts 7. Here is a man of devout Christian character who in the face of insurmountable odds, and the threat of death, preached Christ. His martyrdom should remind us the fate that could be for all men of God, but it also reminds us of the reward (to see Jesus at the right hand of God) for those who persevere. Certainly a saint to emulate.
May I recommend that while you celebrate Christmas, and the birth of our Lord and Savior, you remember those men and women who followed Christ, who we too should follow. What wonderful stories to tell your children and grandchildren, and those who went before us who teach us what it means to be a Christian. So, don’t forget about all the other important Christian holidays this time of year, and throughout the year. You won’t be sorry as you enrich your understanding of what it means to be a Christian by studying the Christians of the past!