Monday, December 15, 2014

THE RESURRECTED OTTOMAN

THE RESURRECTED OTTOMAN
 
Our family may remember the old several-times-reupholstered-old-maroon-colored ottoman that moved with us from house to house across the country. My Daddy bought it and a matching chair (which was reupholstered several times and still in use in my great room) with money saved from his first job at a furniture store after he and my Mom married. That was several years before I was born. The original old cushioned footstool had a tan background with bouquets of maroon and blue roses. It had become a keepsake. It was about a hundred years old now and held many memories of my growing up years in the Iowa heartland. As a toddler I learned to walk by holding on to it.

The ottoman was coming apart with straw stuffing hanging out underneath and a sunken sitting area...really useless and quite a sorry sight. Bill, my good neighbor next door, has a cottage business in upholstering so I took it over to him about 3 years ago to give me a price on repairing. The price was far more than I could afford because he would have to strip and rip it down to the wooden frame and start all over. I made a quick (and unwise!) decision that it was not worth it. Bill said he would dispose of it for me and I sadly agreed.

However, for the past several years I really,
really regretted my decision! I should have held on to it for memory's sake. I kept obsessing about that and finally just told myself to suck it up and forget about it. The ottoman was long gone, probably disposed of immediately in a dumpster--so I should stop thinking about it! Nevertheless, I thought about it again just this week during a moment of Christmas and family nostalgia....

It was my sad privilege to be a good friend to Bill's beloved wife Judy who passed away a year ago from a recurrence of cancer. Judy and I became quite bonded as I tried to encourage her in her Christian faith as she walked her last mile Home to Heaven. She was very precious to me.

Anyway, I invited Bill to our home for a party with about a dozen neighbors last Friday when carolers from a nearby little white "Christmas card country church" arranged in advance to stop at my house to sing. My son Rick and I planned a neighborhood Christmas party around it and it was a warm and fuzzy and jolly event. 


Our good neighbor Doug who looks like an original St Nick with a genuine white beard and in full Santa regalia plays the part in churches and soup kitchens, schools, and other public events during this season. 

Dressed up for our occasion, he handed out hearty ho-ho's and hugs and cookies to about 20 carolers after they sang lined up on my staircase to the second floor.

Bill could not come to our party since he volunteered to attend to his brother who is terminally ill with cancer and allow his wife to take a break. So Saturday I brought packages of goodies from our party to a recent widowed neighbor and several others who couldn't make it to our party, including Bill. We had a long chat.
Then he said he had something for me....

He went off into his workshop and brought out my RESURRECTED OTTOMAN beautifully and totally recreated from scratch and crafted in the best grade upholstery--in colors which not only exactly match my current rose and maroon decor but are so close to the original upholstery when it was new in the early 1920's! When Bill presented it to me, I was overwhelmed to tears at his loving, generous thoughtfulness. What a SURPRISE after I had long given up hope of ever seeing my discarded precious memory ottoman!


What a wonderful Christmas present beyond my imagination! You'll admire it when you come to visit.

God
always answers prayer. Sometimes it is YES, sometimes it is NO, for our best interests. Sometimes it is WAIT. There are times when you've given up on something and finally surrendered even the desire for it, and then God surprises you and gives it back to you in a much better way than before!  Yes, God always answers prayer in His own perfect way!
It's just a good idea to TRUST GOD!

Friday, December 12, 2014

THE ANGEL WITH THE INJURED WING

ENCORE POST
By
Great-Grandma “Bubi Lee” Leona Choy
Written for Makenna Lee Humes

Once upon a time Great-Grandma Bubi-Lee went to a Craft Fair at her parish Church. She saw many beautiful things she wanted to buy for her ten grandchildren. Now she had seven great-grandchildren so she had a lot of things to buy.

She bought two shopping bags full of gifts. But on her way home she suddenly remembered seeing a statue of a beautiful little angel that she wished she had purchased.
 
I wonder if someone else already bought it. I will hurry back again to see if it's still there.”

When Bubi-Lee got to the lady who was selling less-than-perfect items, she found that all of the angels had been sold—except the one she still hoped to buy! There it was on the top shelf all by itself! 
 
Why didn’t you sell this one?” Bubi-Lee asked. 

“She is my most beautiful angel but she has an injured wing. There is a little chip missing near her shoulder. No one wanted to buy her.” 
 
“Maybe she has a story to tell,” replied Bubi-Lee smiling. 

“Perhaps she was waiting for me to buy her! I will buy her no matter how much she costs. I will “listen” to her story. I want to give her to my little great-granddaughter, Makenna Lee, for her first birthday.”

Bubi-Lee paid only one dollar for the beautiful angel statue!
The lady wrapped the angel statue in lots of tissue paper and Bubi-Lee carefully carried her home. 
 
This is the story Great-Grandma Bubi-Lee imagined that the little angel statue told her. She will tell her own story:

My name is BOO-BOO. I live in Heaven. I am one of Heavenly Father-God’s special created angels. There are gazillions of us angels—you could never count us all. We love and serve Father-God. He sends us on trips down to Earth to help His people and also help the creatures He created—the animals and the birds. He cares for them all. 
 
I never had a chance to go to Earth before because I got hurt one day playing among the twinkling stars. I got too close and one of the sharp points on a star injured my wing. I got a “boo-boo.” That is why all the other angels call me by the name “BOO-BOO.” 
 
Father-God kissed the hurt place and told me how much He loved me. He promised to send me to Earth on a very special assignment—sometime.

Finally the day came when Father-God said, “The time has come for your special trip to Earth. A little fawn had been injured in Green Forest and needs some Tender Loving Care. Mommy Doe needs help to care for her until Little Fawn’s hurt leg is healed and she can run and play again.”

“I will go, Father-God. I will hold Little Fawn and care for her until her boo-boo is better. I know how she feels because I also have a boo-boo.”

“Fly to Earth then, little angel. But first choose some Earth clothes to wear because Green Forest is covered with snow. It is wintertime and very cold down there on the Blue Planet.”

Angel Boo-boo chose a warm white coat with blue lining trimmed with white fur, a cape for her shoulders, and a matching cap with fur trim to cover her blond hair. “I must have some boots for the deep snow,” she thought. “High blue boots with fur trim that lace all the way up will do just fine to keep my toes warm. Oh! I still need fuzzy mittens to match.”

The little boo-boo on her wing didn't keep little angel from flying down quickly from Heaven to Earth. God provided her with a divine GPS so she could locate Green Forest. She looked around for Little Fawn and Mommy Doe. She found them right away taking shelter under Evergreen Tree. Little Fawn tucked her injured leg beneath her as she snuggled up to Mother Doe. 
 
“I'm so happy to see you!” said Mother Doe. She tried to lick Boo-boo’s fingers through her mittens.

Angel Boo-boo gently picked up Little Fawn who was trembling with the cold. She held the little deer close to her and covered her with her cape to keep her warm. Little Fawn cuddled under her arm and licked Angel Boo-boo’s face to thank her for coming. Angel Boo-boo could not keep from smiling all the time she was on Earth. She was so happy doing Father-God’s assignment.

Angel Boo-boo stayed in Green Forest on Earth as long as it took for Little Fawn to get well. Winter turned to spring and the snow melted. The warm sun made everything grow and flowers began to blossom. Boo-boo put Little Fawn down on the soft green grass and let her scamper off to follow Mother Doe. 
 
The birds were singing happy songs and all the animals in Green Forest were scampering about doing what all of Heavenly Father-God’s happy creatures do.

It was time for angel Boo-boo to return to Heaven. She told Father-God all about her adventure on Earth in Green Forest. 
 
“Well done!” said Father-God. He smiled and gave Angel Boo-boo a loving hug. “Go and play among the stars until I call you for another assignment. But be careful not to get too close to any of those pointy stars whirling around in my big universe. I don’t want you to get another boo-boo!”
****

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

LOTS AND LOTS OF ANGELS




Encore Post


LOTS AND LOTS OF ANGELS
A Story written by Great Grandma Bubi-Lee aka Leona Choy
for Makenna Lee Humes' birthday/Christmas.
(Bubi Lee “heard” it from Chera and Sera)
(Well-known Christmas songs are in italics.)

“Hi Makenna. We are two Christmas angels who have come to tell you a “once-upon-a-time” true story,” said Chera. We look like twins, but I have a red bow in my hair.”

“And I have a green bow,” chimed in Sera.

“Your Great Grandma Bubi-Lee found us at the parish Christmas Fair at her Church this year. We were standing on the same shelf where she found our friend, the injured-wing angel named “Boo-boo” whose story Bubi-Lee wrote for you before. The lady selling gifts saw Bubi-Lee coming in the door. She smiled and said, “I believe there are some lovely twin angels this time just waiting for you to find them.”

“Sure enough, as soon as she saw them, Bubi-Lee was delighted! She paid the money, and the lady wrapped us carefully to bring to you for your birthday and Christmas, Makenna,” said Chera. But first Bubi-Lee asked us to tell her a story about ourselves so she could write it for you. This is the story we told her.”

“We will both join in to tell you what an exciting part we had in announcing the first Christmas when baby Jesus was born. My name is Chera. That is a short name for our family which is called Cherabim. Father God created many angels in our heavenly family—lots and lots and lots of us. Some people call us 'cherubs' and paint pretend pictures of what they imagine we look like—chubby, naked babies with rosy cheeks and little wings. Some people made up the story that we shoot invisible arrows at boys and girls on Valentine's Day to cause them to love each other.”

“But that's not what you are really like, is it?” laughed Sera.

“No, we angels are invisible to everyone except Father God. If He has a special job for us, He lets us appear to people so they can see us for a little while. But angels were never babies. Father God created us already grown up and very wise and we never grow older. People don't become angels when they go to heaven. People always stay people and angels always stay angels. We angels live close to Father God's throne in heaven so we can do whatever good things He wants us to do. Sometimes He sends us to Earth to protect and guard people and places. Tell Makenna who you are, Sera.”

“My name is Sera. That is a short name for our family of angels called Seraphim. We are 'Angels from the realms of Glory.' Together with Chera's family, we are the highest group of angels that God created. We were chosen by Father God to proclaim 'The First Noel' to certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay keeping their sheep on a cold winter's night that was so deep. In heaven we constantly love to sing to Him the song: 'Holy, Holy, Holy!'”

Chera went on with their story, “'How Great Our Joy!' when Father God sent us to the 'Little Town of Bethlehem' where most people were in deep and dreamless sleep. They didn't know that very night in their dark streets was shining the Everlasting Light—Baby Jesus, the Light of the world, was born. 'It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.'”

“'While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks' by night on that 'Silent Night, Holy Night' lots and lots and lots of angels, filled the sky with such a great, brilliant light that it almost blinded the shepherds. And that glowing glory-light really scared them. It frightened the sheep too,” laughed Sera. “Instead of sleeping peacefully in the rock cave where the shepherds guarded them for the night, the sheep began to run out of the fold and scamper around on the hills crying 'Baa, baa!'” 

“First the angel Gabriel appeared in the sky so large that he seemed bigger than the whole world. His name means 'Mighty one of God.' He is the special angel who Father God sends to bring important messages for Him to people on earth. Like when He told Jesus' mother Mary that she would give birth to baby Jesus.”

“And Gabriel spoke to Jesus' foster father Joseph in a dream several times and told him what to do to care for and protect baby Jesus and his mother,” added Sera.

“Gabriel was the first 'Herald Angel' to announce to the shepherds, 'For unto us a Child is born.' He told them that they should not be afraid because he was bringing 'Joy to the world'—a special baby had been born—but 'What Child is this?' He wasn't just an ordinary baby. This was 'The Birthday of a King!'”

“Jesus was Father-God's Son in heaven before He came to earth. 'Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne' and thy kingly crown to come to save Earth people and prepare them for heaven,” explained Chera.
“I'll never forget those wonderful words,” said Sera. “In a booming voice Gabriel called out that Father God was announcing this news for everybody. 'This day a Savior is born for you and He is Christ the Lord' and every heart should prepare Him room.” 

“Then Gabriel told the shepherds exactly where to find the baby. He would be lying in a feeding box for donkeys and cows 'Away in the Manger'. He would have no crib for a bed to lay down His sweet head. Gabriel told them exactly what clothes the baby would be wearing so the shepherds wouldn't make a mistake in finding Him.”

Chera became so excited. “'O Holy Night!' The stars were brightly shining. O night divine! That's when the whole sky seemed to open up and Father God sent a big crowd of us, a multitude of the heavenly host—lots and lots and lots of angels—more than anyone could count—to join in the celebration for Jesus' birthday. 'How Great Our Joy!' Joy! Joy! Joy! The dark night seemed to turn as bright as daylight because we brought the glory of the Lord with us. We all danced across the sky and sang as loud as we could, “'Gloria in excelsis Deo!'”

“Tell Makenna what those Latin words mean which lots and lots and lots of us angels sang in a big chorus,” said Sera.

“They mean in English, 'Glory to God in the highest!'” and Gabriel told us to add, 'Peace on earth to men of good will!'”

“We angels had just as much fun celebrating as we did when Father God created the Planet Earth and showed us all the marvelous things He made—the plants, and animals, mountains, and oceans, and the first people!” exclaimed Chera. “We sang creation's story then, and now we get to sing and proclaim Messiah's birth.”

“Then lots and lots and lots of us angels kept singing for a long time while the heavenly glory-light shone around us. Finally Father God called us back to His Kingdom in the heavens. The shepherds left someone in charge to guard the sheep, and they hurried off to 'Go tell it on the Mountains' over the hills and everywhere that Jesus Christ was born. They finally arrived at the birthday party of Jesus 'Away in the Manger.' They told all the people they met, 'From the Angels We Have Heard on High' as they were sweetly singing o'er the plains.'”

“Makenna, would you like to have us sing a song for you about Jesus' birthday? It would make Jesus happy if you sang along with us. Father God gave you the gift of such a sweet singing voice.

Away in a manger no crib for a bed
the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay
the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.”

“We have come to stay with you, Makenna. We would love to guard and protect you. We will be happy to share a shelf with angel Boo-boo at your house.”

Chera and Sera promised, “On Christmas we two will hold a candle and your Mommy or Daddy may light it. That light will remind you that Jesus is the Light of the world. And remind you of the glory-light in the sky on that special night of our dear Savior's birth when we joined lots and lots and lots of angels to announce to the world that the 'Long-Expected Jesus' had come to set His people free.”

Friday, December 5, 2014

HURRAH FOR THE PREPPER BRIDESMAIDS!

What is a Prepper? The word is just finding its way into modern dictionaries. In today's society with uncertainties of weather, natural or technological catastrophes, economic collapse, and other emergencies or unanticipated urgencies, a Prepper is one who chooses to be prepared for anything he may face. He is not a survivalist in a derogatory, fanatic sense, but a wise, responsible person who plans for the future. After all, “Be prepared!” is the Boy Scout motto and a major theme throughout Scripture. Who wouldn't want to be a Prepper? 

In the Matthew 25 story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, it was a case of bringing along enough lamp oil for the possible long haul. The wedding festivities might have depended on the lamplight of all ten of the bridesmaids' lamps. With only five lamps the illumination the host was counting on would have been considerably diminished. Since early history oil lamps together with candles were the only sources of lighting. That was also true in Jesus' day. On the occasion of Saint Paul preaching until after midnight in Acts 20:8, the writer Luke noted, “...and there were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together.” Probably everyone there had brought his own lamp. No one even fantasized about what it might be like to flip a switch to bring light through electrical current, or about battery power, fluorescent lighting, or LED lighting. Diodes, semiconductors, voltage, electrons, and photons were far in the future.

In certain less modern societies oil lamp light is still used because it is safer and brighter than candle light. In our society the purchase of oil lamps is still brisk for emergency lighting in case of a power outage, to light up primitive situations, and for romantic ambiance and a cozy atmosphere. The shape of oil lamps has changed little—a clear glass or metal base for the oil and a wick connecting the oil with the flame which is covered by a glass chimney.
 
After Googling oil lamps for more information I became a bit wiser about their operation. The glass chimney can get cloudy with smoke and soot buildup which cuts back the light output and so must be kept clean. Trimming of the wick after burning and the shape of the wick affects the type of flame and the brightness. Any kind of oil may be burned; stale oil or even used cooking oil will work, but pure paraffin oil gives the brightest light and no stink. The Preppy girls likely used olive oil and carried extra in a flask. A temporary inconvenience but it gave them the entrance ticket when the Bridegroom's procession finally arrived.

As Christians we are reenacting in Advent our waiting for our Savior's first coming as a babe in the humility of a borrowed manger. At the same time we are awaiting our Bridegroom's appearance in glorious majesty at His second coming. He may seem to be delaying and dark night is settling in around us as the world seems to whirl in turmoil. Like the bridesmaids we get drowsy and even fall asleep. Our lamps clouds up with the smoke and soot of concern for the affairs of this life. We may even have a telltale oil leak like the spotting of oil on a garage floor or driveway from oil in our cars. But we must be wise. We can't afford to use stale oil or run out of oil and be caught short at the Bridegroom's sudden arrival. 

Oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures and Christian teaching. We receive our initial anointing of the Oil of the Holy Spirit at our baptism and it is normally meant to escalate into a brighter flame at Confirmation. From that point on I need to be constantly checking my oil, topping it off if it runs low, trimming my wick, and cleaning my chimney from the cares of this world.

My smart phone has a little feature that flashes a signal “Refresh.” I simply touch the screen to invite new email messages to come instantly and almost magically into my cell phone through cyberspace. In real life it takes intentionality, deliberate action, to keep spiritually refreshed. I am reminded to “keep being filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). I must seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. (Matthew 6:33) It takes habitual attention, an unhurried, contemplative slice of my time. I must be continually anointed with fresh oil which is the oil of joy. (Psalm 45:7a and 92:10b) My head must be anointed with oil. (Psalm 23:5b) My head, my intellect, needs the Oil as well as my heart, my emotions; my cluttered mind is troubled with many things of this material world and my own busyness against which Jesus' warned His friend Martha.

If I am so foolish as to let my lamp run out of Oil and stop shining God's Light, others will not be able to see in their darkness and are likely to stumble or lose their way. God has provided Oil so abundantly that I may not only be filled with His Holy Spirit but that I overflow. He is counting on me to be a Prepper and poke holes in the darkness of the culture around me by setting my lamp on a lampstand for the maximum dispersion of Jesus' Light wherever He has placed me in life.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The REAL Saint Nick

Will the REAL Saint Nick 
please stand up?

(Conversations with Jeffrey—The Series. By Leona Choy)
Archived December 2012. Encored by request


“Jeffrey, you believe in Saint Nick, right?”

Come on Grandma, you know I'm 13 now!”

“I mean the real one, the flesh and blood man whose Feast day is December 6 and celebrated by Catholic Christians all over the world.”

Don't you mean December 25th and Santa Claus?”

“Nope. At Christmas we celebrate the birthday of Jesus, although we don't know the exact date or year of our Savior's birth. I mean Saint Nicholas, a bishop of the Church, a real historical figure who lived at the turn of the fourth century.”

Where did he live? I'm guessing it wasn't at the North Pole.”

“In Asia Minor in what is now Turkey, but it was a Greek province at the time. It isn't far from the Holy Land, Israel, just across the Mediterranean sea.”

So there really was a Saint Nick?”

Absolutely. Saint Nicholas was a generous, model bishop who put Jesus Christ at the center of his life, his ministry, and his entire life.”

But where does the name 'Santa Claus' come from?”

'Santa' means 'saint' and 'Claus' came from shortening the bishop's name 'Nicholas.' Some say that early Dutch settlers in New York brought their tradition of 'Sinter Klass' to America and that started the tradition here.”

Tell me again what a 'saint' is?”

The word 'saint' means 'holy.' In Latin it is 'sanctus.' Saints are just ordinary people who want to live like Jesus taught us to live, but they are special because they did a good job at it. The apostle Paul calls all Christians 'saints' in his writings. We should all want to be saints.”

They're sort of like Christian heroes, right? Role models?”

That's the idea. We consider them examples of how we too should live pleasing to God. Because they are still alive in Heaven, no matter how long ago they lived on earth, we can ask them to pray for us.”

What connection does this real Saint Nick have to the Santa Claus story of today.”

“The Santa Claus story sort of grew in people's imaginations through the centuries. The real man named Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, a southern seaport in Turkey. Even the way the modern Santa Claus is dressed reminds us of the real Saint Nicholas. Bishops of the Church wear red and Nicholas was a bishop. Today's Santa and his 'helpers' are always dressed in red. Starting in 1931 (when I was only six years old!) the Coca-Cola company started using a caricature of the real Saint Nick for their advertising.”

What's a 'caricature'?”

“It's like a cartoon, an artist's way of exaggerating certain features of a real person.” 

Do we know anything about Nicholas as he was growing up?”

“Nick was the only child of very rich parents who died from an illness when he was a young boy. He grew up in a monastery and became a priest when he was 17. He inherited his parents' wealth and used all of it to help poor families, widows, and especially children and orphans. He became famous for his generosity and kindness and for giving of gifts.”

How long after Jesus' resurrection did Nicholas live?”

“About 280 years. The Christian Church was just getting started, but faith in Jesus was spreading fast all over the known world of that day. During Nicholas' life the leader of the country, Emperor Diocletian tried to destroy the Church with his political power. One of his advisers was the son of a witch and influenced the emperor to worship pagan idols, burn writings about Jesus, and force priests to renounce the Christian faith or face death. He forbade Christians to meet together or hold any government office. As a bishop and their leader, Nicholas was the main target for his persecution.” 

Did this stop Bishop Saint Nick and all those new Christians?”

“The emperor arrested him and had him tortured for disobeying the emperor's new laws. Actually, the real Saint Nick must have been very skinny, not like today's fat Santa. He spent more than a decade in prison being starved and he also fasted often when he was free. Emperor Diocletian was eventually defeated and his kingdom collapsed. Constantine, who became the next emperor, was favorable to the Christians, so Saint Nick finally got out of jail.”

Was everything cool for the Christians then?”

“Trouble continued. Some who called themselves Christians but didn't believe correctly what Jesus and His apostles taught caused confusion. Nicholas was known for his courage to stand firm for the true Christian faith. He lived it and taught his people well. He was against the heresies of those times.”

What's a heresy?”

“It's a teaching that is contrary to what Jesus and his followers clearly taught. The main heresy in Nicholas' day was led by a man named Arius from Egypt. He tried to convince people that Jesus was not really the Son of God, maybe just a prophet or only a top angel—'sort of a lord' but not equal to God.”

How did that all get settled?”

“In those early centuries after Jesus' resurrection when all the new Christians were forming their common beliefs, they settled important matters of the Christian Church by calling a Council of all the bishops. The first one ever held was called by Emperor Constantine during the time of Bishop Nicholas. It was held in Nicea in 325. More than 300 bishops from all over the Christian world attended, including Nicholas. Their conclusions are what we declare in the Nicene Creed that we say every Sunday at Mass.”

Did our Saint Nick stand up against this Arius guy?”

“Bishop Nick got so angry with Arius at the Council for saying such false things about Jesus, that he belted him—he hit him with his fist and knocked him down!”

Wow! What happened to Saint Nick?”

“For doing that, the Emperor took away his vestments, his special bishop's clothes, and his bishop's credentials and threw him in prison. The story goes that Jesus and his Mother appeared to him in a vision in prison and reinstated him as the bishop.”

What kind of gifts did our Saint Nick give to people?”

“Legends say that Saint Nick always wanted to help people anonymously. He didn't want anyone to know so it wouldn't draw attention to himself. On one occasion he heard that a certain poor man had three daughters who wanted to be married. Their father didn't have money for a dowry so Bishop Nick secretly helped him out.”

What's a dowry?” 
 
“In those early centuries, a young woman's father had to offer a prospective husband something of value. That was called a dowry. Without a dowry, she was not likely to marry and might have to be sold into slavery. On three different occasions, so the story goes, Saint Nick threw gold coins through their windows where they landed in stockings they hung by the fireplace to dry.”

Could that be where we got the custom of filling stockings at Christmas?”

“Probably. He is also known for saving three innocent condemned prisoners who were blindfolded and ready for the executioner's sword. Nicholas fearlessly grabbed the sword, cleared them of the unjust charges, and let the men go free. Saint Nick is widely known as the patron saint of children. There are other stories of him rescuing children from danger after they were kidnapped or missing. There is a scary one about three little children lured into the clutches of an evil butcher. At another time three theological students were murdered by an innkeeper and their bodies chopped up and hidden in a pickling tub.”

That's gross, Grandma. Is it true?”

“Who knows? Stories grow bigger with the retelling. Saint Nick was said to have restored the dead students to life. He had a strong concern for justice, especially for innocent people held in prison. Also for intervening in favor of people unjustly jailed, which was common in those days.”

He must have been quite an aggressive guy.”

“You could say that, but it was always to defend the true faith of Jesus. The real Saint Nick also destroyed many shrines to pagan idols, drove the demons away, and built churches in their place. He totally destroyed the most beautiful and famous pagan temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis, who was the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Diana. Not one stone was left in place. Thousands of churches all over the world are named in honor of Saint Nicholas.”

Did Saint Nick ever get to the Holy Land?”

“He went there on a pilgrimage. On his way back, the story goes that the ship he was on and the sailors were protected when he prayed, like Jesus did, for God to calm the storm. Many seaports especially in Greece, since Nicholas was Greek by birth, erected statues of him surrounded by small ships made of silver or carved from wood. Sailors even now ask him to pray for their protection. Instead of wishing one another good luck, they say, 'May Saint Nicholas hold the tiller.'”

Is Dec. 6th Saint Nick's birthday? How did the custom of giving gifts get shifted to December 25th ?”

“Dec. 6 is the day he died. Saints' days are always commemorated on the day of death, the happy day of their entrance into eternal life. In early days in Europe gifts were given on Saint Nicholas' day. At that time gifts were mainly nuts, apples, and sweets put into shoes which were left beside beds, on windowsills, or before the hearth.” 

Where did the idea come from that Santa comes down the chimney?”

“Well, that certainly didn't come from the days of the real Saint Nick. Did you know that chimneys weren't even built on houses in those days? Chimneys didn't come into use until the 13th century and they were first constructed in northern Europe.”

A lot of the early Santa pictures you showed me have a hooked staff behind Santa in the sleigh. What's that all about?”

“That custom did come from our real Saint Nick. It is called a 'crozier' and is always carried by a bishop even now in our Churches. It represents a shepherd's staff since a bishop is considered the shepherd of his people, just as Jesus is the Good Shepherd.”

Bishop Loverde carried a crozier like that when he conducted our Confirmation Mass.”

“He did. And did you notice that in some pictures of Santa today he is carrying a big book? In some European gift-giving traditions the large book represents the record of children's behavior—Santa is checking if they were 'naughty or nice.' But of course the big book we see at Mass from which the priest or the lector reads is the Book of the Gospels or the Holy Scriptures.” 
 
Where did the idea of the sleigh and reindeer come from?”

“It took generations before the tradition settled on Santa coming on Christmas to bring gifts. In 1821 the first, small, lithographed book was published in America titled The Children's Friend. A 'Sancte Claus' (in German, 'Sankt Nicklaus') was pictured with a red beard arriving from the North in a sleigh pulled by one sort of tired-looking flying reindeer. They were shown landing on a roof by a chimney. Santa began to be thought of as rewarding good behavior and punishing bad. Gifts were mostly safe toys, dolls, and books. In that early picture the sleigh even had a bookshelf! From then on the tradition shifted away from the real Saint Nicholas celebration to the pretend Santa coming on Christmas eve.”

Grandma, that long-ago picture shows Santa as a tiny man not the big guy in pictures we see now.”

“That was still the idea two years later when Clement Clark Moore wrote the poem 'The Night Before Christmas' for his own six kids. The way the author imagined Santa was 'chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf' and his sleigh was miniature. The description stuck and the poem became famous.”

Where did that long clay pipe and all the smoke Santa blew from it originate?”

“The traditional pipe was from the Dutch, who were known to be heavy smokers. It wasn't until the end of the 1920s (when Grandma was in kindergarten!) that the American Santa began to be pictured as a normal-sized old man with a hugely fat belly.”

And his original red beard has became all white and long to match the fur trim on his suit. He has a fat, white mustache, rosy cheeks and twinkling eyes.”

That's the way the story goes. And he wears snow boots, a wide black belt, and a long-tailed ski cap. But Bishop Saint Nick's hat was called a 'miter,' the special tall, pointed hat of his appointed office.”

And I guess he likes Coca-Cola, or hot chocolate, and cookies that people leave by the fireplace for him!”

“Now he owns eight reindeer (nine, if you count the new Rudolf with the red nose!) and a bunch of elf assistants who are busy making toys all year. And the toys are really high-tech now!”

That doesn't sound much like our original, real Saint Nick.”

“For some people Santa Claus replaces the Babe of Bethlehem; --the real Saint Nick points us to the real Babe of Bethlehem, Jesus. 
Today's Santa is pictured as flying through the air from the North Pole; --the real Saint Nick walked this earth helping and caring for people in need. 
The children's Santa was brought on the scene to boost commercial Christmas sales; --the real Saint Nick brought the message of Christ and peace, goodwill toward all.
Santa Claus belongs to childhood fantasy; --the real Saint Nicholas is still a Christian model for all of us.”