Street Preacher’s Grinch Stunt Sparks Christmas Controversy in Texas

By Brittany Stewart

by Danielle Dolin

About a week ago, self-proclaimed street preacher David Grisham made headlines when he stood outside a Texas Public Elementary School dressed as the Grinch, holding a sign that read, “Santa is Fake, Jesus is Real.” While some families waved, encouragingly honked, and children gave him high fives as they walked by, others were so angered by his statement that they assaulted him, ripping his sign and following him in their cars. Eventually, police intervened and asked Grisham to leave. In the end, Grisham’s takeaway was, “It’s very telling for a society to go this far in protecting a LIE.” The New York Post labeled him a killjoy “preacher.”

For Christians, keeping Christmas Christ-centered is the principal focus of the season. However, as we navigate shopping malls and stores, a plump man dressed in a red suit, not a baby boy in a white cloth, is advertised everywhere. The key word here is advertised.

For Christians, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th is paramount. However, the element of Santa Claus still resonates with many families. So, how do we address our children who see Grisham’s sign? We teach them history. Plain and simple. Teach them the truth. Children will then understand where the traditions of stockings, a plump man sliding down a chimney on Christmas Eve, and leaving treats out for flying reindeer came from. Although the Jolly Old Elf is not real, his evolution is.

If Santa isn’t real, then who is he? Where did he come from? The truth is that his origin dates back hundreds of years ago and has evolved and transformed from a Catholic Bishop to the plump, jolly man in the red suit.

Start with Etymology:

The word Christmas is derived from Old English, Chistes Maesse. It is a combination of the Greek word Christos, meaning “anointed,” “savior,” and “Messiah.” The Messiah, in Judaism, is the expected king meant to deliver the Jewish nation. Mass or Maesse comes from the ecclesiastical Latin missa, meaning “dismissal, prayer at the conclusion of a liturgy, liturgy, mass.”

Tell of St. Nick:

The origin of Santa Claus began with the birth of Christ. Yes! So, there may have originally been a symbolic correlation. Remember the Three Wise Men presenting gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the holy child, Jesus? Well, a man took on the Magi’s gift-giving as a symbol of that Nativity. Sometime after the birth of Christ, a Catholic bishop of Myra, in the land now called Turkey, would be called Saint Nicholas. With his white beard, mustache, bishops crown, red cape, and staff, he shares the combined image of a Wise Man and Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas had a deep love for children and a fondness for leaving secret gifts for the poor or needy. He mimicked the deeds of the Magi in the Bible as a symbol for the night his Savior was born. His story developed over time, as many did not know how he delivered gifts in secrecy, as a Saint who could fly, looking for people in need. Saint Nicholas was made a saint on December 6th, 343 AD. The day of his passing was declared the Feast of Saint Nicholas, and was a special day to give gifts.

Tell of Legends from other Cultures:

There are other gift-giving legends involving an elderly woman who gave gifts at Christmas intended for the Christ Child. In Italy, her name was Befana. She got lost bringing gifts to Jesus, so she leaves gifts for other children in hopes of finding the Christ Child. In Russia, her name is Babushka. Those ornate stacking dolls are reminiscent of her told characteristics. She did not get lost like Befana but rather left gifts because she felt guilty for steering the Magi in the wrong direction on their way to Bethlehem. Again, these legends surround the Birth of Christ.

Explain The Evolution:

The tradition of Saint Nicholas continued long after his death. A story about him riding a white horse and throwing money down a chimney for a family with three daughters with no dowry evolved into a man riding a reindeer, flying through the sky, jumping down a chimney, and leaving gifts for children. The Dutch word for Saint is Sinter, and the shortened name for Nicholas is Cleas. Sinter Cleas – “Santa Claus.” These young Hollanders would leave carrots and hay for Sinter Cleas’s horse or donkey, and socks hung up by the fireplace. In the morning, the treats would be gone, and gifts left in their place.

Sinter Cleas evolved into Father Christmas, where English children and other Northern European children would leave bowls of rice pudding out at night. Similarly to the Dutch tradition, gifts would appear in the morning. As time progressed, these traditions found themselves in the homes of the settlers in the New World. New Amsterdam, New York today, adopted the image of Sinter Cleas, and from that point on, he became more and more commercialized and sensationalized.

Illuminate The Commercialization:

Sinter became Santa, his horse became reindeer, his satchel of gifts became a sled of gifts, and December 6th merged into December 25th – out of convenience. In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore dramatized the tradition of Santa Claus in his poem, “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” A few years after this poem was published, cartoonist Thomas Nast illustrated Santa Claus for Harper’s Weekly magazine. By 1886, the United States saw an image that would be familiar to the Santa in the Coca Cola billboards. As time progressed, he became more and more commercialized and embellished. From a Saint to an image of a happy old man, sitting at his desk in the North Pole, with stacks of wish lists from boys and girls around the world. Today he is everywhere this time of year; generating over a trillion dollars annually.

Steer Them Back To A Christ-centered Christmas:

In the famous “A Charlie Brown Christmas” special, Charlie Brown says, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” And Linus, by quoting the Gospel of Luke, explains the Christmas story. It’s a beautiful scene that quotes a beautiful passage of Scripture. Moreover, in several countries around the world, Santa is absent, and the Christ Child is a symbol of Christmas giving. In Germany, Christkindl brought “Christmas Bundles” to the children. In Spain, he is called Niño Jesús. In France, Petit Noël. And, In Italy, Gesù Bambino.

Giving perspective to our children regarding the roots and evolution of Santa Claus will help them be steadfast in their convictions as Christians later on. Once they know the truth, they can empathize with the tradition of Santa Claus from a historically accurate perspective.

Theologically, December 6th, the Feast of Saint Nicholas, reminded Christians of God’s gift of Jesus to humankind. The coming of the Magi to Bethlehem suggested that Christmas was somehow related to giving gifts. The original intentions of Santa Claus were a Bishop’s intent to symbolize the Magi, the Nativity.

Brittany Stewart, an accomplished writer and educator, draws inspiration from her 23-year marriage and upbringing near Lake Tahoe in Verdi, Nevada, now residing in Tucson, Arizona. With her Bachelor’s degree in Education, emphasizing Native American Literature and Journalism, Brittany is a multifaceted professional who is also a Licensed Massage Therapist. She is deeply involved in Tucson’s homeschooling community, leading a homeschool group, teaching dance, and offering art classes. She and her family have a homestead in Southern Arizona, where her husband hunts and she tends to the garden, emphasizing the importance of God and family in her life while continually seeking adventure through her travels.

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