Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Based on a letter by Francis Church,
editor of the New York Sun in a September 21, 1897 editorial reply to
Virginia O'Hanion who had written to inquire if Santa Claus really existed.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Oh, I don't mean those silly santas you see in the shopping mall wearing those funny red and white suits. I'm talking about the real Santa Claus. His real name is Saint Nicholas. St. Nicholas lived in the 4th century in a town called Myra in what today is the country of Turkey. We don't really know very much about St. Nicholas. We're not even sure exactly what he looked like. He probably had a long grey beard. We know he didn't wear a silly red and white suit. His clothes probably looked something like the vestments that your pastor wears on Sunday morning in the Liturgy.

You see, St. Nicholas was a pastor. Actually, he was a bishop. A bishop is a pastor who's been put in charge of all the other pastors in his town. He makes sure that everyone is well cared for and that the pastors are teaching people true things about God from the Bible. St. Nicholas was a very good father and pastor. He especially took care of all the poor widows and orphans in his city. If they didn't have shoes, he'd bring them shoes. If they didn't have a blanket to keep them warm at night, he'd give them a blanket. If they needed food, he'd bring them food. He was always looking for people to help, especially children.

The real St. Nicholas didn't care much whether children were naughty or nice. He knew that children are both naughty and nice at the same time. So are adults. He also knew that Jesus died for everyone, the naughty and the nice, and that both naughty and nice people need Jesus. St. Nicholas wanted everyone to know that. He didn't keep any kind of list that he checked over twice, except maybe a list of all the people in his parish who needed help. He was careful about making sure that people knew how much God loved them by showing them his love. If you looked at St. Nicholas and saw how much he loved other people, you could see the love of Jesus shining through him.

You see, Virginia, St. Nicholas loved Jesus very much. And he knew that Jesus loved him. He believed that Jesus was his best friend in the whole world and his Savior. St. Nicholas knew that because Jesus suffered and died for him, he would live forever with Jesus. He knew that Jesus became poor so that we might be rich. That's why he was always doing good things for poor people. He wanted to show them the love of Jesus.

St. Nicholas worshiped Jesus much the same way that we worship Him every Sunday. He preached God's Word and celebrated the Lord's Supper with his congregation. He preached sermons about Jesus, just as your pastor does, Virginia. Sometimes the children in St. Nicholas' church got a little restless and noisy, but St. Nicholas didn't seem to mind. He was so happy that the children were there with their parents to hear about Jesus that he just kept on preaching anyway. He told people how God sent His Son to be born of the Virgin Mary, how he suffered for our sins under Pontius Pilate, how he died on a cross and was buried to save everyone from death and hell, how He rose from the dead three days later and now reigns as our King, and how Jesus is going to appear very soon to take us to live with Him forever. Many people believed in God and worshiped Jesus because of St.Nicholas' preaching. That made St. Nicholas happy.

St. Nicholas wasn't always jolly and happy. When people didn't believe in Jesus or made fun of him, St. Nicholas became very sad. Sometimes he even cried because some people in his city thought that Jesus was just make-believe and so they never came to church. When people said bad things about Jesus, St. Nicholas would get very angry. One time, a man named Arius told some very bad lies about Jesus. Arius said that Jesus wasn't really God. That made St. Nicholas so upset he almost got into a fist fight with Arius. You see, St. Nicholas loved Jesus so much, he couldn't stand to listen to such awful things.

Some good bishops got together with St. Nicholas and wrote what we call the Nicene Creed. We say the Nicene Creed together in church every Sunday. Just think, Virginia, when you say the Creed, St. Nicholas is saying it with you! It makes him very happy to hear little children say the Creed by heart. St. Nicholas is always jolly and happy when children love Jesus and confess Him.

The real St. Nicholas doesn't bring presents to boys and girls at Christmas time. He doesn't slide down chimneys. Most houses don't even have chimneys. And he doesn't fly around the sky in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Those are silly stories that some people made up. Actually, your Mom and Dad give you presents at Christmas time. They do that because they love you, and they want to teach you to give good things to other people, especially poor people, just like good old St. Nicholas did. Most of all, St. Nicholas wants you to remember God's Gift of His Son Jesus. He wants you to love Jesus with all your heart, and to know for certain that Jesus loves you with all His heart.

So, of course, my dear Virginia, by all means believe in Santa Claus. How could you not believe in St. Nicholas? Why, you might as well not believe in angels and archangels, or Mary and Joseph, or shepherds and wise men, or the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Or for that matter, you might as well not believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

No Santa Claus? Of course, there's a Santa Claus! I don't know if he sees you when you're sleeping and knows if you're awake. But I do know that St. Nicholas is with us whenever we are together in church, along with all the saints who believe in Jesus. Thank God, St. Nicholas lives! St. Nicholas lives forever, because he was baptized and believed in Jesus Christ, who was born and died and rose and reigns for all of us.

-William M. Cwirla

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PhyshBourne said…
Santa is dead
I. There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the Population Reference Bureau). At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per house hold, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each.
II. Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 967.7 visits per second.
This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks. This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second -- 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional Reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per hour.
III. The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional Reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that the "flying" Reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or even nine of them -- Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch).
IV. 600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second crates enormous air resistance -- this would heat up the Reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of Reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the Reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire Reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip. Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 m.p.s. in .001 seconds, would be subjected to forces of 17,500 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.
V. Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.