|In the broad scheme of things, although antiquity has blunted the keen edge of certainty, they didn’t miss by much. Hardly more than a handful of decades and a few hundred miles.
Nicholas, long before he was sainted and much longer before he morphed and devolved into Santa Claus, spent time in the Holy Land, walking (you’ve seen the brochures) where Jesus walked. This happened 250 years before and 800 miles north of where Muhammad shuttled between Mecca and Medina.
What if time and geography had been ever so slightly shifted and they had met? Two young, ambitious orphans. One disposing of a fortune, the other dreaming of getting his. Both with hearts for God. Would they have discussed theology? Debated the nature of Jesus? Would the argument have gotten heated under the Middle Eastern sun?
We’ve been told St. Nicholas didn’t shrink back from defending the biblical, orthodox understanding of the Trinity. At Nicea in 325 A.D., smarty pants from all over gathered to hammer things out through much discussion, debate, and presumably prayer! At a particularly tense point in the process, Nicholas punctuated his point with a potent, though possibly apocryphal, smack to his opponent’s face.
Arius, the accosted one, believed Jesus had been created by God and was subservient to him. Nick would have nothing of it and his views prevailed. You’ve likely read the results: We believe in, “one Lord Jesus Christ. . .begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father.” Thereby affirming the monotheism of Christianity.
What if Nicholas and Muhammad had met? What if Santa, sans slap, had convinced the young reformer that Jesus was more than a prophet, and God was so much bigger and better than he’d imagined? What might the world look like today?
But they didn’t meet and we’re left to wait for the full resolution of God’s purposes for Muslims. We wait for, and somehow even join in, the fulfilling of Simeon’s prophecy that this wee child would be, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.”
Wait with hope, my friend. Join with great vigor and all the wisdom, courage and energy with which God graces you. Merry Christmas to you and yours.