First things first: A blessed Feast of the Nativity to one and all, especially for those in church traditions that follow the liturgical calendar rather than the calendar of the Chamber of Commerce. Christmas is here and, well, Donald Trump has nothing to do with it.
So, thinking about church history, I was worried when I saw a Washington Post analysis piece with a headline that proclaimed: "Five myths about Saint Nick."
I was, of course, worried about that word "myth." Quite frankly, I was worried -- in the context of St. Nicholas of Myra -- about either of the most common definitions of this term:
1. A traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events. ...
2. A widely held but false belief or idea.
As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, calling St. Nicholas of Myra a "myth" is, well, fightin' words. At the same time, connecting the secular superhero named Santa with St. Nicholas the saint would present trouble for other people. I've written a whole lot about both sides of that tension (click here for more).
Some Orthodox folks might quibble with a few words of this piece, written by Adam C. English, a Christian studies professor at Campbell University, a Baptist campus in in North Caroline. He is the author of “The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus: The True Life and Trials of Nicholas of Myra.”
However, the big idea of this piece is spot on: Yes, there is a real St. Nicholas. However, he is not the man at the shopping mall.