Every kid in America knows at least two things about “Santa Claus.” One, he lives at the North Pole, and two, he delivers presents in a sleigh.
The problem is, both of those facts are wrong!
The idea of a Santa Claus grew out of traditions surrounding the historical Saint Nicholas (a fourth-century Greek bishop and gift-giver.) Actually, nowadays Santa lives on Long Island and drives a black pickup. His birth name was Frank, he has three tattoos, and he thinks zombies are awesome.
There’s a man in New York who has legally changed his name to Santa Claus. And he’s totally embraced the part—from the beard to the red furry outfit to the “ho-ho-hos.” Let’s watch Santa in action.
Play this video for your students [2:04].
Santa Claus Is Real
- Why do you think a guy named Frank would change his name to Santa Claus? (Guide your students to the idea that he probably wants to take on the qualities of Santa. Maybe that just means a jolly laugh and a cool costume. But hopefully, Santa-Frank also embodies some of the character traits of Saint Nick like generosity toward others.)
A name can be a powerful thing. It’s not magic—calling a turkey “cow” won’t make it start mooing. But on the other hand, a name is a powerful reminder of who you are . . . or maybe who you want to be.
Every day when the man formerly known as Frank checks his mail for envelopes addressed to “Santa Claus,” he gets a reminder that he’s someone else now. Hopefully, he’s reminded to live with the generosity and kindness that are represented by his new name.
- If you were going to change your name, what would you change it to? Why? (Accept all reasonable answers. Encourage your students to think about what draws them to a certain name. Do they just like the sound of it, or would having that name encourage them to live differently?)
A name can be a powerful reminder of who you are. Maybe your parents even picked out your name to represent a quality they hoped you would develop.
In the Bible, some names have a slightly different purpose. They’re still a reminder of qualities a person has. But the reminder isn’t just for the person with the name—it’s really a reminder to us of the way God shaped that person’s story. What’s the most important thing God wants us to recall about that person?
For example, Abraham means “father of many,” because he became the ancestor of the nation of Israel. Peter means “rock,” because Jesus made him one of the foundations of the Church. And then there’s the name we want to focus on today—Jesus. It means “rescuer” or “deliverer.”
- Why does the name “Jesus” have such significance to us as Christians? (It’s because Jesus has rescued/ delivered all of us from our sins!)
When people think of Christmas, they often think of two names. One of them is Santa Claus. That’s who Frank from Long Island decided to be, and hopefully he lives up to it by living generously like Saint Nick.
But the very name of the holiday we are talking about—Christmas—should be linked to Jesus the Christ! That’s the important name! Santa’s generosity in giving gifts is good, but Jesus rescued us by giving His life.
Jesus’ name is a reminder of why we honor Him every week in church. God doesn’t want us to forget that it’s only Jesus who can deliver us from our sins.
Let’s dig deeper into His name as we look at a familiar passage from Matthew.