06 December 2010

Personal Touch

Welcome to the Neighborhood News

This month Personal Touch celebrates Christmas with a special series on the Life and Miracles of Jesus Christ. To gain a deeper understanding of the miracle of the Savior's birth, we begin with an interview with gospel scholar Paul Thomas Smith. Paul wrote the text in the new book, This Is The Christ: Art by Carl Heinrich Bloch. Within its pages, readers see the Danish artist's masterpieces depicting the life of Christ and find Smith's explanations of the events, their history, and scriptural background. This Is The Christ coincides with Brigham Young University's Museum of Art exhibit of Bloch's artwork, The Master's Hand, which runs through May 7, 2011. Paul Thomas Smith has taught for the Church Educational System and served on the Institute curriculum writing committee; he was also a faculty member at the Joseph Smith Academy at Nauvoo, Illinois, and arranged for tours to Church historic sites in seven states. A charter member of the Florida Mission, he has served on several Church writing committees and in various callings. He and his wife, Gail, currently serve as ordinance workers at the Bountiful Utah Temple. Paul is a service missionary for the Historic Sites Division of the Historical Department, is a docent for the Museum of Church History, and records for the Utah State Library for the Blind.

Web: http://moa.byu.edu/index.php?id=1809

We all know of Santa Claus and that he brings presents to children on Christmas. No matter how you feel about his involvement with the holiday, he’s here to stay, and he’s been a staple for a very long time. Let me share his story with you today.

 Nicholas lived in a village in a country that today is Turkey. He was the son of a wealthy family, and became a monk at a young age. One of the stories told of him says: “In the not too distant city of Myra, the Bishop of the church passed away. As the authorities of the church assembled to consider his replacement, Nicholas was there. The man considered wisest amongst the authorities had a dream and was visited by a heavenly messenger. He inquired of the angel "Who should the new Bishop be?" The angel said that if the gathered authorities would just wait by the door of the church they should select the first person named Nicholas to walk through the doors. The church authorities had their answer, and Nicholas had his miracle and was named the youngest bishop of the church ever on record.”
 As a bishop, he continued to help others, and was known for defending those who could not defend themselves.
During the Middle Ages, life was hard and dreary, so people tried to mitigate their existence by celebrating with feast days named after popular saints. The word holiday comes from holy day, which were days set aside by the Catholic church to honor their saints. With time, the feasts came to be a combination of secular and religious activities.

One story is worth mentioning: there was a father with three daughters. They were so poor that he couldn’t afford a dowry for any of them. In the middle of the night, Nicholas came to their help and left a small bag of gold coins (some people say through an open window, others down a chimney). In any case, he did it three times for each one of the girls.

Nicholas died in 342 AD. He was very popular for his acts of kindness, was canonized and became the patron saint of children.


From those times, Saint Nicholas, “SaintNiclaus”, Santa Claus, was seen as a fatherly figure dressed in bishop’s clothes. It wasn’t until the late 19th or early 20th century that he was transformed into the jolly old elf that we all know now.

Some of us can bring up the fact that Santa is part of a very commercial holiday. Some of us can say that it’s fun for the kids. I like the story that depicts Santa kneeling in front of the baby Jesus. I think that brings it more into perspective. Yes, we can go out and buy presents, in moderation, since baby Jesus was given presents, and we all love to show our appreciation for others. But shouldn’t we hold in our hearts the spirit of giving throughout the year?

I’ll leave you with the quote from Dickens: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

Sources here, here and here.

To view a copy of the Neighborhood News for Monday, 6 December, please click here.

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