Let us now pause to offer a word of thanksgiving and modest praise for a New York Times story about religion.
Of course, this particular news report has nothing to do with sexuality or religious liberty, so the editorial bar was set a bit lower. However, this story does have a few kind words to say about Russian Orthodox believers, which is a kind a miracle in and of itself right now.
The dateline for this report is the city of Demre, in southern Turkey, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Taurus Mountains. In other words, this comes from a region that is absolutely crucial to the history of the early church and the people of the New Testament, although most readers (the story takes this into account) would not know that.
The headline focuses on an all-to-often overlooked hero of the Christian faith: "In Turkey’s Home of St. Nick, Far From North Pole, All Is Not Jolly."
Now, why is this story appearing in the Times on Dec. 19th? I would assume that this is because a Times correspondent noted an increase in the number of Christians coming to Demre for events celebrating the life and faith of St. Nicholas of Myra.
But why Dec. 19th? The story never tells us why.
This raises an interesting question: Does the reporter, or the Times copy desk, even realize that Dec. 19th is the Feast of St. Nicholas, according to the ancient Julian calendar used by the Orthodox Church in Russia and in many other Eastern lands? In the West, the feast of St. Nicholas -- with its emphasis on almsgiving for the poor and small gifts (think chocolates wrapped to look like gold coins) -- is celebrated on Dec. 6th, on the newer Gregorian calendar.
But let's look at a key summary of facts early in this story:
Yes, Virginia, you heard that right, Santa Claus is from Turkey. But this year, Christmastime in Demre is far from cheery.