As I write this, we are less than two weeks away from Christmas. The older I get the faster time seems to fly by. I remember when I was little it felt like an eternity between Halloween and Christmas. In fact, there was a whole other holiday, Thanksgiving, thrown in the middle. It was a lot of pressure. After all, I had to be nice if I wanted to get presents from Santa. I’d heard rumors he’d been watching me all year long, so these last couple of months were critical. I couldn’t afford anymore slip-ups.
Do you have any idea how hard it is for a seven-year-old to be nice to their brothers and sisters for two months straight?!
When I watch our home movies of Christmas morning, I see the battle-weary fatigue on every child’s face. It’d been rough not calling each other names or making faces at mealtime for almost 60 days. Not to mention staying silent when your siblings would deliberately sit in your spot on the couch and refuse to move. And, of course, there was always the borrowing-without-actually-asking challenges to be handled with great diplomacy and tact, and no yelling.
But we had dutifully sucked it up, navigated the familial minefield, and kept our eyes on the prize. Now, underneath the glistening tree was the glorious payoff. As we’d rip through the carefully wrapped presents, leaving a flurry of wrapping paper debris in our wake, we reveled in our reward.
Later on, as we’d sit together enjoying a bountiful breakfast, we’d be tempted to revert back to our old ways. But it was still Christmas, so we’d declare a temporary truce, which usually ended precisely on the morning of December 26.
As an adult Christian, my focus has shifted from pursuit of presents to pursuit of God. I’m no longer imposing some temporary self-restraint in the hopes of cash and prizes. I’ve come to realize this simple truth.
We all deserve to be on the naughty list.
Now, I realize that may be an unpopular take. And I don’t expect you to take my word for it. You know I brought receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24)
All have sinned. All have fallen short.
That’s tough for many of us to accept. We try to live our lives doing the right thing, being nice, but no matter what our best efforts, we can’t earn our way into heaven. We can’t make ourselves righteous in our own strength. We are flawed human beings.
But there is a God of all the earth who looks upon us in love, who knows our weaknesses yet sent His only Son to die in our place. Jesus took our punishment upon Himself. To use my earlier analogy, regarding the things of God, there is only one name on the nice list. That name is Jesus. The rest of us are all on the naughty one.
Yet as we come to know and believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, as we receive Him into our hearts and repent for our mistakes, our names disappear from that naughty list and appear on the nice one. I imagine that each letter: J E S U S contains millions of our names within it. A surface glance would still show only one name: Jesus. But if you look deeper, you’ll see our names inside it. He covers us. He goes before us. He made the Way.
Christmas morning is different now.
It’s still a time of laughter and gift-giving. But there is a deeper reverence, an appreciation for the Lord of all who didn’t spare His only Son to save us.
Don’t get me wrong, there is still something so precious seeing a small child’s face as they open that one special present they dreamed of getting. Perhaps we could all have that same awe, wonder, surprise, and joy when we realize the gift that was our Savior born in a stable in Bethlehem. May we read our Bibles with the same excitement because there are so many gifts inside just waiting to be opened.
Until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. Jesus is the reason for the season and the Gift that never stops giving.
Look forward to hearing from you.