Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2016
Texts: Job 38–39; John 1:29; Matthew 16:13; 1 Corinthians 1:18–27; Job 40:1–4, 42:1–6; Luke 5:1–8; Genesis 22:8
Sometime in life we learned the hard truth: Santa Claus is not real. Or is he? St. Nicholas was a real Christian bishop who cared for the poor and sick. Born in Patara, Turkey around 280 AD, the legend of St. Nicholas grew into Santa Claus.
Young Nicholas lost both of his parents and used his inheritance to help the poor. As bishop of Myra, he helped three poor sisters. Their father didn’t have funds to pay their dowries and felt forced to sell them into servitude. Three times Nicholas snuck into their house at night leaving a bag of money. The man used the money to help his daughters marry. He also saved three men who were falsely imprisoned and sentenced to death.
Stories of his work spread and he became known as the protector of children and was associated with gift-giving. He was a popular saint until the Reformation when Protestantism turned away from honoring saints. St. Nicholas, however, remained an important figure in Holland. The Dutch celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6. It was a common practice for children to put out their shoes the night before. In the morning, they would discover the gifts that St. Nicholas had left there for them. Dutch immigrants brought St. Nicholas, known to them by his nickname Sinterklaas, and his gift-giving ways to America in the 1700s.
Sinterklaas eventually became Santa Claus. In his 1820 poem "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" Clement Moore describes Santa as a jolly, rotund man who drives a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer and comes down the chimney to leave presents for deserving children. Cartoonist Thomas Nast added to the St. Nick legend with an 1881 drawing of Santa as wearing a red suit with white fur trim. Our notion of Santa Clause is a distortion of the kind, charitable Nicholas of Myra.1
At some point in life we learn the truth about the character of God. It’s apparent to Job and his friends right away in our lesson this week that none of them really knew the God they were talking about. Their views distorted the character of God and His ways. Their feeble explanations of God actually slandered Him. When God appeared on the scene in a massive tempest Job was immediately humbled and his friends conveniently disappeared from the narrative.
God questioned Job in a way that reveals Job’s limited understanding of God’s ways. God reveals that He alone is Creator. God shows that the better part of wisdom for humans is often to be silent when faced with concepts beyond our incomplete comprehension. Ultimately, Job repented of his foolishness. He learned that it is good to know the true character of God, free from distorted views.
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