The Real St. Nick: Leader, Legend or Lie?
Bible Study Discussion Guide
by the Rev. Ken Klaus, Lutheran Hour Ministries, Men’s Network Bible Studies. Lutheran Hour Ministries is affiliated with the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Lutheran Church—Canada and Lutheran Women in Mission.
This study discussion guide accompanies the 25-minute video, The Real St. Nick: Leader, Legend or Lie?
Did St. Nicholas live at the North Pole and bring toys to good boys and girls each Christmas? In this special Lutheran Hour Ministries Men’s NetWork Christmas video Bible study, Lutheran Hour Speaker, the Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, guides us in a search for the man behind the myth.
St. Nicholas is a character steeped in tradition and known the world over. Is he the great despoiler of Christmas or the persecuted confessor of the Christ? Is he a defender of the faith or one who undermines it?
To a large extent we will determine what role Santa will play in our homes.
In this study, Pastor Klaus looks at the traditions and tries to sort out the usable from the discardable.
Getting the Most from this Discussion Guide
This is an interactive study guide. Its built-in flexibility allows you to use it with a group or by yourself. We designed our questions to be open-ended to allow the men in your group to share their experiences and unique perspectives. It includes Digging Deeper sections which provide extra information and links to Internet sites where you can browse and dig as deep as you want.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the greatest Christmas gift of all time: sending Your Son to be born our Savior in Bethlehem’s manger. As we study the life of St. Nicholas, guide us into all truth that we may think rightly of this great holy day of Christmas. I pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
What do you know about St. Nicholas?
- What part did Santa Claus have in your Christmas?
- What effect did it have for you to learn the truth?
- What do you think we should teach children about Santa Claus?
Watch The Video
- What false assumptions did this video uncover about St. Nick?
- What impact did this information have on your thoughts about Christmas?
- After viewing this video, do you think differently about what children should be taught about Santa Claus?
How did St. Nicholas evolve from a bold, courageous bishop of the Church into a jolly old gent who carries presents to good little boys and girls all around the world? This probably occurred when we lost track of most of St. Nick’s great qualities and only held on to one—his generosity as demonstrated in the gifts he gave.
In a sense the same thing happened to the Wise Men who are remembered more for their gifts than the faith those gifts professed.
Read Matthew 2:1-12
Like St. Nicholas, the Wise Men are veiled in mystery. We have no idea how many there were. We know they came from the east but can’t be sure which country or countries they came from. The only part of the picture that is clear in Matthew’s account is the gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh they presented to Jesus, the King of the Jews.
As we saw in the video, tradition has told us of many of St. Nick’s great traits: his courage under persecution, his boldness in confessing the true faith, his care for his people, and his generosity to the poor. And yet the one trait that grabbed and held our attention is his gift-giving.
- Assuming the traditions are true, how did St. Nick’s anonymous way of giving his gifts help lead to the myth of Santa Claus as he is pictured today?
As Santa Claus evolved, St. Nicholas’ faith in Jesus Christ and his dedicated service to Christ’s Church were all but forgotten. For many he became the great gift-giver; for others he’s the secular symbol of commercialism and greed. Some Christians hate Santa Claus and think he is nothing but a distraction from the real reason for Christmas. Others think he is a good and harmless part of the Christmas celebration but has nothing much to do with Jesus’ birth.
- What is the danger of either extreme?
- Why is Santa Claus seen as such a threat?
- How does knowing the true story of St. Nicholas make Santa Claus less troubling?
Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son into our world on that first Christmas so many years ago. For His perfect life, innocent suffering, death, and resurrection from the dead that secured my salvation and eternal life with You, receive my thanks. Thank You for all the blessed saints who, like St. Nicholas, devoted their lives to spreading the Good News of our Savior. Bless me to follow in his footsteps and share Jesus Christ with everyone I know. I pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Digging Deeper: Common Misconceptions About Christmas
It didn’t take long for St. Nicholas’ life to become engulfed in myth and fantasy. In the same way, the story of Christ’s birth also has become confused with many errors and misconceptions over the years. These websites will help you separate the truth from the errors:
- Dr. Paul Maier discusses Christmas with Phyllis Wallace on this Lutheran Hour Ministries—Woman to Woman radio broadcast
- This link includes many good points but includes one error; it states God did not use one of Mary’s eggs in forming Jesus’ physical body
- This in-depth site discusses the familiar story of Christmas and separates the truth from fiction
Digging Deeper: St. Nicholas in Tradition
- Centuries of tradition give us the stories handed down by Christians concerning St. Nicholas, which give us a glimpse into his life. Along with the truth, however, are many embellishments.
Digging Deeper: Piecing Together the True Story of St. Nicholas
- This website is dedicated to telling the true story of St. Nicholas
- This website examines early evidence of the life of St. Nicholas
Digging Deeper: How Did We Get from St. Nicholas to Santa Claus?
- This website explores the transition from St. Nicholas to Santa Claus in the hands of Clement Moore, Thomas Nast, and Coca-Cola
Digging Deeper: Orphaned by the Plague
The ancient world was ravaged by diseases such as smallpox and measles that killed great numbers of people.
- This Web site discusses two plagues that were brought back to the Roman Empire by its far-flung Roman legions, the second of which claimed both of Nicholas’ parents, the dreaded Plague of Cyprian
Digging Deeper: St. Nicholas Around the World
- This web page is full of links that show what St. Nicholas means to different countries, languages, and cultures
Digging Deeper: Is X-MAS an Insult or an Honor?
Did society create X-mas to take Christ out of Christmas?
- This Web site examines the roots of using X to stand X-mas
Digging Deeper: Emperor Diocletian and his Persecution
- Read Church Father Eusebius’ account of Diocletian’s edicts which caused the persecution in which St. Nicholas was imprisoned
- This is a timeline of the Diocletian persecution
Digging Deeper: Patron Saints
- Saint Nicholas as a Patron Saint
• This Web site explains the significance of patron saints to Roman Catholics
- Here is a list of the saints in Roman Catholicism
Digging Deeper: The Relics of St. Nicholas
- The earliest account of the Translation of the Relics
- This medieval manuscript describes the removal of St. Nicholas’ relics from Myra to be placed in Bari in Italy. It’s peculiar how the people of Bari congratulated themselves for this grave robbery
- Here’s a summary of the moving of the relics with pictures of the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Bari
Digging Deeper: British Forensic Team Reconstructs St. Nicholas’ Face
- This website describes the forensic reconstruction of St. Nicholas’ face from his relics (includes two pictures of his face—and several icons which closely match the reconstruction) and links to an interview with the scientist
- This is an animation of St. Nicholas’ face. (Click on “view animation” on the right side of the large picture)
Saint Nicholas, The Real Story Of The Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegemeyer
Christmas Around the World by Brenda Trunkhill
The Very First Christmas by Dr. Paul L. Maier
Download the electronic copy of the DVD and study guide
- Log on to www.lhmmen.com
- Click on “Studies” in the top navigation
- Choose “The Real St. Nick” from the page by clicking the underlined title (located to the right of the study’s graphic)
- On the bottom of this page, click “download videos & materials”
- Enter your e-mail address and password (and register, if necessary—it’s free)
- Click on “Other Options” to go to the page to download the video and other materials; then click on “download videos & materials”
- Follow instructions to download the Discussion Guide, Promo Video, Session Video, customizeable bulletin insert and poster
By the Rev. Ken Klaus from Men’s Network, copyright © 2009, Lutheran Hour Ministries. Permission pending.